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Remains of young Clarksville mom Susan Lund, missing since 1992, identified in Illinois

CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – Human remains found in Illinois in 1993 were identified this week as being those of a Clarksville woman who went missing 29 years ago, and they were discovered only a month after her disappearance.

The Jefferson County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office and Redgrave Research Forensic Services have confirmed the identity of “Ina Jane Doe,” an unidentified woman whose remains were discovered in 1993, the Sheriff’s Office announced in a news conference this morning.

Susan Lund, 25, was last seen by her family on Christmas Eve 1992, when she reportedly left her home in Clarksville to walk to a grocery store. Her husband reported her missing soon after.

One month later, on Jan. 27, 1993, near the town of Ina, Illinois, the head of a white female was discovered on the side of a wooded roadway in Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. The woman was estimated between 30 and 50 years of age, and may have had torticollis or “wry neck syndrome,” a condition that may have caused her head to have a sideways tilt during life, according to a news release from Redgrave.

The woman’s identity remained unknown for over two decades.
New technology applied

In February 2021, Dr. Amy Michael, assistant professor of anthropology, University of New Hampshire, approached Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to offer a reexamination of the case using updated forensic methods. Writer and researcher Laurah Norton collaborated with Michael on the reanalysis. It was determined that the woman likely did not appear significantly asymmetrical during life, and a new forensic image was created by artist Carl Koppelman.

“As forensic methods are updated and refined, it is critical to reevaluate cold cases and utilize new approaches, like forensic genetic genealogy, alongside anthropology to achieve identification,” Michael said in the release.

Meanwhile, samples from Ina Jane Doe’s remains were sent to Astrea Forensics, a laboratory in Santa Cruz, California, to create a DNA profile suitable for using forensic genetic genealogy. A DNA profile was provided to Redgrave, a genealogy company in Massachusetts, who then uploaded the data file to GEDmatch on Feb. 3, 2022.

Anthony Redgrave, co-founder of Redgrave Research, said in the release, “My team was honored to be brought in as part of the collaboration to identify this woman, and had Susan’s family in mind long before we discovered her name.”

Redgrave’s genealogy team arrived at a potential match within a day, then found out that Lund had been reported missing, with no date of death. The potential ID was passed to law enforcement, who then followed up with family members of Susan Lund. A DNA sample was provided by a sibling for direct comparison. On March 6, it was confirmed that Ina Jane Doe is Susan Lund.

The collaborating investigators, scientists and genealogists extend their deepest sympathies to Lund’s family and friends, the release said. Any information about the actions and/or whereabouts of Lund on or following Dec. 24, 1992, should be directed to Detective Capt. Bobby Wallace at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 618-244-8004, or email
About Susan Lund

Lund had three young children, all under age 6, and was pregnant when she went missing from her home on Harrier Court, off Jack Miller Boulevard, according to Leaf-Chronicle archives from 1993. Her husband, Paul Lund, was a Fort Campbell soldier.

Clarksville Police abandoned the search for Susan Lund after two weeks, saying they believed she had left Clarksville “by her own choice” and was alive and well living in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where they said she was seen the week after Christmas.

A few weeks later, Paul Lund said his wife had been seen on Interstate 65 near Louisville, “looking thin, pale, attired in the same clothes she was wearing the night she vanished,” according to a Feb. 24, 1993, Leaf-Chronicle article.

Paul Lund said he believed his wife had been kidnapped, because she had her checkbook with her but had not written any checks.

Leaf-Chronicle archives from 1993 were used in this report.

Ina Jane Doe has been identified as Susan Lund, 25, from Clarksville, TN.

Caddo County Jane Doe has been identified as 20-year-old Katrina Kay (Burton) Bentivegna of Midwest City, Oklahoma.

Katrina Bentivegna

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 11, 2022) – The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) is announcing that the remains of a woman found partially buried in Caddo County in 1995 have been identified as 20-year-old Katrina Bentivegna of Midwest City, Oklahoma.

The OSBI Cold Case Unit, including criminalists in the Biology Unit at the OSBI Forensic Science Center, submitted Bentivegna’s DNA to Parabon Nanolabs in March of 2021. Parabon submitted results back to the OSBI with possible genetic matches in August of 2021. Agents then contacted possible relatives requesting DNA samples to compare to Bentivegna’s. Recently, OSBI agents were notified the comparisons were a match and Bentivegna’s family was notified that she was positively identified.

“We are thrilled to be able to reunite Katrina with her family,” said OSBI Director Ricky Adams. “While it took 27 years to be able to deliver the news, we never stopped working to identify Katrina. We pursue all options available at the time for victims and sometimes we have to wait for technological advances like forensic genetic genealogy. The first step in cases like this is to identify the victim. Now we continue our pursuit of justice for Katrina.”

Bentivegna’s dismembered body was discovered near Route 66 and Highway 281 in Caddo County on April 24, 1995. The Caddo County Sheriff’s Office requested OSBI assistance with the investigation. It was difficult to identify Bentivegna at the time because her feet, hands and head were removed from her body. In 1996, a skull was found that the OSBI later confirmed through DNA comparison belonged to the body found in 1995. Over the years, agents have pursued numerous leads in an effort to identify Bentivegna with help from the Caddo County Sheriff’s Office, Oklahoma Office of Chief Medical Examiner, as well as the FBI.

“The family of Katrina Kay (Burton) Bentivegna is very appreciative of the hard work and countless hours of time the teams from the Caddo County Sheriff’s Office and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation put in to help identify the body of our beloved mother, daughter, sister, cousin, niece and friend. At this time, we request no contact or inquiries.”
Bentivegna’s maiden name was Burton. She was originally from Colorado and arrived in Oklahoma in the summer of 1993. She was married in November of 1993 and is survived by her son (unnamed).

“I appreciate all the hard work the OSBI has put into identifying my mother,” Katrina’s son said. “There have been many unanswered questions over the past 27 years but now I have closure in knowing what happened to my mom.”

If you knew Katrina (Burton) Bentivegna or have any information on her murder, please contact the OSBI at (800) 522-8017 or email You can remain anonymous.

Identified as Roberta Seyfert

Status: Identified
On February 4, 2022, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office (RCMEO) and the DNA Doe Project (DDP) announced the identity of the remains of a woman discovered near Lilydale, Minnesota in 1976 as that of Roberta Seyfert. Using investigative genetic genealogy, DDP was able to solve the forty-five-year-old cold case of the woman known only as Lilydale Jane Doe 1976 since her body was discovered.

Roberta SeyfertRoberta Seyfert was born in 1954 in Tucson, Arizona. Her body was found floating in the Mississippi River on June 11, 1976. Exactly how long her body had been in the water is unknown, but authorities estimate she died weeks earlier in 1976. Ms. Seyfert would have been 22 at the time of her death.

Using a DNA sample previously taken from the remains, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office contacted the DNA Doe Project in March of 2021 hoping to identify the woman using investigative genetic genealogy. The sample was processed to create a DNA profile that could be uploaded to GEDmatch, a public database, and by late June, 2021, the volunteer investigative genetic genealogists began to analyze the genetic matches.

The closest DNA matches were distant cousins. DDP’s Investigative Genetic Genealogy Research Team traced the Doe’s paternal line back to early eighteenth-century Luxembourg to find a common ancestor who had immigrated to the United States in the mid-1840’s. On July 3, 2021, the team arrived at a potential candidate for Jane Doe and notified the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Team Leader Rebecca Somerhalder stated, “Even though the highest match was in the distant cousin range, our team of investigative genetic genealogists were able to quickly follow the DNA connections which led to giving Roberta her name back. We are honored to have had the opportunity to work on this case and to have played a part in bringing her home to her family.”

The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office and Dr. Butch Huston, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; Michael Woods of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Forensic Science Services; HudsonAlpha Discovery for sequencing; Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations for bioinformatics; GEDmatch for providing their database; our generous donors who contributed to this case; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home

Identified as 67-year-old Jean Turner Ponders, of Roswell, Georgia.

Human remains found outside Talladega Superspeedway in 2012 identified as missing Georgia woman

LINCOLN, Ala. (WIAT) — Human remains that were found in Lincoln nearly a decade ago have now been identified as belonging to a woman from Georgia who reportedly went missing around the same time.

In a news release from the Lincoln Police Department, remains that police found outside an abandoned building in Talladega County on May 5, 2012 were recently identified as being those of 67-year-old Jean Turner Ponders, of Roswell, Georgia. According to police, Ponders’ cause of death was determined to have been from lung cancer by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.

According to Ofc. Tim Lupo with the Roswell (Georgia) Police Department, Ponders was reported missing by her sister in September 2015, approximately three years after she last heard from her.

The case began in 2012 when a deputy with the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office and a reserve officer working at the Talladega Superspeedway during race week located human remains behind an abandoned residence on Allred Road in Lincoln. At the time, Ponders’ remains couldn’t be identified due to them being too decomposed to collect fingerprint evidence. In August 2012, Ponders’ remains were entered into NCIC and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, but her description did not match any local missing persons cases and the case went cold.

“If not for considerable assistance from Othram, Inc. located in Texas, which is a forensic sequencing laboratory for law enforcement and a forensic genetic genealogist named Carla Davis, Lincoln Police Department would still have a cold case,” the release stated. “Because of all this assistance and hundreds of investigative hours put in by Lincoln Police investigators over the years, Ms. Ponders has her identity back.”

Ponders’ case remains open and police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding her ending up in Alabama. Anyone with information on Ponders and the circumstances leading to her remains being left in Lincoln are encouraged to call Capt. Shannon Hallmark with the LPD at 205-763-4064 or Investigator Demarco Willis at 205-763-4070.


Woman found in Thousand Palms shallow grave in 1994 identified by cold case team

A woman in her late 50s found wrapped in a plastic sheet and buried in a shallow grave near Thousand Palms in 1994 has been identified by authorities nearly three decades later.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office announced Monday that the remains belonged to Patricia Cavallaro, 57, of Bellflower, after her DNA was matched with one of her surviving children.

DA Supervising Investigator Ryan Bodmer, who manages the county's Regional Cold Case Homicide Team, said Cavallaro's remains are among about 700 his team hopes can be identified if more people who are missing a relative contribute DNA profiles to databases investigators can access.

"With a cold case, genetics are really the only way to move the investigation forward," Bodmer said. "This tool creates an environment to do real detective work in a case where there are no leads."

Senior Investigator Mike Thompson, who is working the open case, said most homicide investigations start with identifying the body, interviewing relatives and identifying suspects from there. Typically, he added, homicide victims are killed by someone they know.

But this investigation couldn't progress along those lines until the body was identified, Thompson said, which proved to be difficult.

Riverside County Sheriff's Deputies found the remains on Oct. 24, 1994, about a half-mile north of Varner Road between Date Palm Drive and Ramon Road.

"There was no evidence that immediately identified her," Thompson said. "When you don't know who they are or where they came from, it becomes very difficult. It quickly became a cold case."

Thompson said the autopsy determined she had died from homicidal violence. The lack of evidence near where she was found indicated she had likely been killed elsewhere and buried in the desert. And for about 30 years, her identity remained a mystery.

Joseph DelGiudice, chief of the DA's Bureau of Investigation, and Bodmer established the multi-agency cold case team in 2020, with Thompson and investigators from the sheriff's department and Riverside Police Department. The team collaborates with federal and state authorities to utilize databases of genetic information belonging to missing persons.

"If we can find someone we think is a relative, and do a direct DNA search of them, then we could confirm the identity of the remains," Bodmer said.

The team sent a small sample of the woman's remains to a laboratory in Texas, called Othram Inc. With her genetic information, investigators started the time-consuming work of sketching out a potential family tree.

Thompson described the process as giving Patricia Cavallaro her identity back by tracking evidence of her life until it disappeared. She was born in 1937 and had family in Western New York, he said. She moved to California sometime in the 1960s, was his best guess. She lived in Bellflower, in Los Angeles County, and had two children and a husband, records showed.

Her husband died in 2017, he added. And only one of her children, her son, could be located. She was reported missing in 2001, he said, adding her husband told police she "walked away" from home and was never seen again.

"You follow the evidence and you see she was there, and then she just stopped existing in 1994," Thompson said. "After that, there's no evidence that she's alive or dead, no marriage or divorce records, no death certificate."

So the team spoke with her son to get more information. He declined to comment for this story. Bodmer said her son had expected she had died, but didn't know the circumstances.

He agreed to provide a DNA sample and the California Department of Justice said its analysis indicated a strong likelihood that the remains were Cavallaro's.

"How she got from Bellflower to Thousand Palms is a mystery," Thompson said, adding the investigation is still open.

DelGiudice and Bodmer emphasized that if the team is to make similar progress on the hundreds of other cold cases in the county that have been identified as being solvable with genetic profiling, the public's help will be critical.

"We have quite a number of unidentified bodies that clearly died under suspicious circumstances," DelGiudice said.

Private DNA services, like 23andMe and, have grown in popularity in recent years, Bodmer said, but law enforcement can't access the data they own. Services such as, however, can take the same DNA profiles and make them available to broader search, including cold-case investigators. 

Bodmer said there are several other cases that are close to similar breakthroughs, like Cavallaro's, if more genetic information was made available by people who have a missing relative.

He provided the example of a woman found dead of a violent attack in 1996, in her late 30s who had a Cesarean scar indicating she had at least one child. Bodmer said it's likely she was a first-generation immigrant with few records to help identify her.

"Someone alive knows who she is," Bodmer said. "Her child or children are probably in their late 20s."

A DNA sample from a direct relative, a brother or daughter, rather than a distant cousin can provide the genetic match needed in such a case that would otherwise likely remain perpetually unsolved.

Identified as Patricia Cavallaro, 57, of Bellflower, CA.


Warminster woman missing since 1992 identified as Bensalem murder victim found behind diner 26 years ago

Nearly 30 years after she disappeared, the woman whose body was found wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave behind a popular 24-hour diner has a name again.

Now Bensalem police want to find out who killed Merrybeth Hodgkinson, a 31-year-old single mother of two who grew up in Bucks County and once danced at Lower Bucks strip clubs. 

The Bensalem detective overseeing the case has identified a person of interest who is already serving life in prison.
This 1979 high school yearbook photo shows Merrybeth Hodgkinson, who Bensalem police believe was murdered and dumped behind a diner sometime in 1992.

The mystery surrounding the woman known as Clubhouse Jane Doe was solved last month after her DNA profile was uploaded into an international database to build a genetic family tree.

Earlier this month, a DNA match with a living sibling confirmed the remains are Hodgkinson, who was last seen alive in 1992, Bensalem police said in a press release Monday announcing authorities had identified Hodgkinson.  More information will be released Tuesday at a news conference at the Bensalem headquarters.

It was the second time in less than a year that Bensalem Detective Chris McMullin and the department successfully used genetic matching technology for a Jane Doe case.

Children playing in a wooded area near the Clubhouse Diner off Street Road near Knights Road found the remains on Sept. 18, 1995.

The decomposed body of a naked woman was inside clear, heavy-gauge plastic wrap. Several pieces of clothing, two crucifixes and a wood beaded massage cushion were found buried nearby. No identification was found.
Two shirts found near the body of a woman police have identified as Merrybeth Hodgkinson. She was found wrapped in plastic and largely decomposed in 1995
Two crucifix found near the body of now identified as Merrybeth Hodgkinson in 1995.

Forensic experts estimated Jane Doe had been dead two to three years, according to police reports at the time.

She was described as white with olive skin, probably between 35 and 45 years old, and petite. Her jaw was square and she had wide set brown eyes. 

An autopsy determined the cause of death was strangulation. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.

The body did not fit the description of any reported missing persons in the area at the time and the investigation quickly went cold. 

The Bucks County Coroner’s Office quietly buried the remains in a plot at Trinity Cemetery in Telford. A marker listed the date she was found and the name “Unknown Jane Doe.”

The case file gathered dust until it caught the eye of McMullin in 2002, when he reopened a handful of cold cases in the department. He was a Bensalem patrolman in 1995 when the Clubhouse Diner body was found.

Identified as Merrybeth Hodgkinson


After almost 40 years, St. Louis Co. teen runaway identified as Arizona cold case victim

ST. LOUIS COUNTY — Nearly 40 years after the body of a girl was found on Valentine's Day off a northern Arizona highway, police have identified her as a teenage runaway from St. Louis County.

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office announced Monday that DNA had confirmed the homicide victim was Carolyn Eaton, a 17-year-old who was reported missing in 1981 from her home in Bellefontaine Neighbors.

Eaton was one of six sisters. She ran away after an argument sometime around Christmas in 1981, said Coconino County Sheriff's Office Lt. Jason Lurkins, who is working on the case.

Her body was found Feb. 14, 1982, by an Arizona state trooper off Interstate 40 in northern Arizona. The unidentified girl was soon dubbed “Valentine Sally” by authorities and became a well-known local cold case, Lurkins said.

Detectives exhausted all leads over the years but had been unable to determine the girl's identity. This year, they contracted with a company to compare DNA from the body with online ancestry databases and found a match with a first cousin in the St. Louis area, Lurkins said.

Detectives then traveled to St. Louis County to interview relatives, who confirmed they had a sibling who ran away in 1981.

"The family members were awestruck," Lurkins said. "We told one family member we were investigating a missing person case and they asked: Is this about Carolyn?"

Eaton's death was a homicide caused by some type of violence, but the state of the body made finding a more specific cause of death difficult, Lurkins said. The sheriff's office is continuing to search for a suspect.

Detectives believe a waitress at a truck stop near the remote area where Carolyn was found may have been among the last to see her, Lurkins said.

Patty Wilkins, Seligman, Arizona, told detectives at the time that on Feb. 2, 1982, while working the night shift at an Arizona truck stopped owned by her family, she served a girl matching Carolyn's description when she came in late with a man wearing a cowboy hat with a peacock feather in it.

Eaton told Wilkins she had a toothache, so Wilkins said she gave the young girl an aspirin for the left side of her mouth.

Police eventually found Eaton's body about a mile up the road from Wilkins' family truck stop. When an autopsy was done on Eaton's body, Wilkins said police told her the aspirin was still on Eaton's tooth.

"I could have pulled her off that truck. I could have forced her to stay with me. I could have called 911. I could have done a million different things that I didn't do. The only thing I did was put that aspirin on her," Wilkins said Monday in an interview with the Post-Dispatch.

The body had previously been misidentified through facial reconstruction as Melody Cutlip, a Florida teen who went missing around that time but was reunited with her family in 1986.

"I've been with this department 23 years now and every so often we'd hear about the Valentine Sally case," Lurkins said. "So when it broke like this, it was a big deal and I'm sure it's bringing up a lot for her family."

St. Louis County missing persons detective Tom Taylor aided Arizona investigators when they traveled to Missouri for the case.

"It is an absolute reminder that hope springs eternal for police investigators and someone with a missing family member," said Taylor, recalling when he got the call about the DNA matches. "And it shows the investigators kept this case alive over all these years."

Taylor said St. Louis County has open missing persons cases dating to 1955, though police investigations into runaways like Eaton have changed dramatically.

"The availability in technology makes a huge difference today," he said. "Today, everyone has a cellphone that is trackable, and that's not something that was around at the time of this case."

Bellefontaine Neighbors police Maj. Warren Williss also aided Arizona investigators and said he had spoken with a few retired officers from the department who remembered the family and Eaton's case. The department no longer had case files connected to the disappearance.

"It's nice to get some sense of resolution," Williss said. "I hope that knowing more about what happened can help the family in some way."

Identified as 17 year-old Carolyn Eaton of St. Louis, Missouri.


Ex-Sharon resident ID'd as 1991 murder victim

PASCAGOULA, MISS. — The body of a woman found 30 years ago in a Mississippi bayou has been identified as a former Sharon resident.

Kimberly Ann Funk, formerly of Sharon, went missing in 1990, and her body was discovered in 1991 in Ward Bayou, about 15 miles of the Mississippi Gulf of Mexico coast.

Detective Matthew Hoggatt, of the Jackson County Sheriff Department in Pascagoula, Miss., said his office is investigating Funk's death as a homicide.

"We are sure it was a homicide, but we're not releasing a cause of death," he said.

Thursday's announcement ends a 30-year mystery and identifies a long-ago victim.

On Feb. 1, 1991, forensic pathologists reported that the skeletal remains discovered in Ward Bayou belonged to a white woman in her late 20s with brown hair, but failed to establish an identity.

Later that year, investigators released images of a clay model of the woman's face, based on features of her skull, but they still were unable to discover the body's identity.

In 2019, the Mississippi state crime lab used funds from an anonymous donor to pay for enhanced DNA testing through the Othram Inc. laboratory, based in The Woodlands, Texas. Information from the tests were used to build a family tree.

The investigation bore fruit in March, when Othram's DNA tests indicated that the victim may have had a brother living in Sharon. Investigators spoke with the brother, who said his sister — Funk, who also used the name "Star" — had gone missing in 1990.

DNA testing on the brother, obtained with cooperation of Sharon police, confirmed that the body was that of Funk.

Hoggatt said Funk, who was born Feb. 7, 1969, had left Pennsylvania prior to 1989-90, when she lived in Houston. Sometime in 1990, Funk arrived in Biloxi, Miss.

Now that investigators have identified Funk as the victim, they are trying to fill in the blanks in the timeline of the final months of her life and, from there, discover the identity of her killer.

Hoggatt said he is looking for any information from anyone who knew about Funk's activities while she lived in Texas and Mississippi — and that could include people from Sharon.

"We don't discount any kind of information at this point," Hoggatt said. "There might be somebody up there that she stayed in touch with."

ANYONE WITH information on Funk can contact the Jackson County Sheriff's office at 228-769-3063 or Mississippi Crime Stoppers,


'What Happened to Janet Lucas?' Wash. Woman Found Dead in 1985 Is ID'd — But Who Killed Her?

The skeletal remains of a woman have been matched to a missing person more than 35 years after they were found, reviving old questions about how she was killed.

A bear hunter discovered the remains near Crystal Creek, Mont., in the summer of 1985, and when a forensic examination failed to identify who they belonged to, the Jane Doe was given the name "Christy Crystal Creek."

Now, thanks to advanced DNA testing and intensive genealogy research, the Missoula County Sheriff's Office has confirmed Christy's identity as Janet Lee Lucas, a young mother from Spokane, Wash., who vanished in 1983. She was 23.

In the decades since her remains were found, Missoula County detectives made multiple attempts to uncover Lucas' identity. They worked with a variety of forensic experts to examine the remains and spent hours scanning missing persons databases in the U.S. and Canada, turning up no leads.

This year, Missoula County's Cold Case Unit received state funding to partner with private technology company Othram Inc. for further research, which helped launch a forensic genetic genealogy investigation. Weeks of family tree analyses, interviews and DNA testing of relatives led to an identification of Lucas, says the Sheriff's Office.

Lucas' family released a statement Monday that reads: "After decades of missing Janet, our family is broken hearted to learn that she was tragically taken, unidentified and spent a large amount of years alone. However, she never spent one moment without being loved. Janet had a contagious smile, warm personality and wore her heart on her sleeve."

Lucas grew up in California and Washington with seven brothers and sisters. She had a 5-year-old son at the time of her disappearance and would be a grandmother of four had she lived to the present day.

"We cannot rest on our success of having finally identified Janet. We must now seek justice for Janet," stated Detective Captain Dave Conway in the release.

Even before Lucas' identity was known, there was speculation that she may be a victim of alleged serial killer Wayne Nance — also known as the Missoula Mauler — because her cause of death was similar to those of other bodies found nearby, according to the sheriff's office. Nance is suspected of killing at least six people in Montana in the '70s and '80s, but he was reportedly shot and killed in 1986 after one of his victims fought back, so he was never charged with murder, reports the Billings Gazette.

"Our focus has changed from 'who is Christy Crystal Creek?' to 'what happened to Janet Lucas?'" said Conway. "This is now a cold case homicide investigation and we need your help."


Cold case victim’s sister talks about her decades long search for her sister

MCDONALD COUNTY, Mo. – Earlier this week, authorities announced that they had finally identified a woman found dead in December 1990 in McDonald County. Authorities believe the victim — referred to as “Grace Doe” — was raped and killed, her body left on Oscar Talley Road.

The case had gone cold for 30 years, until advanced DNA technology lead authorities to the half-sister of the victim. Grace Doe was actually Shawna Garber. That half-sister, Topeka, Kansas resident Danielle Pixler, says she had been searching for Garber for almost as long as the case had been active.

“I was told so many different stories. You did have a brother and sister, and you don’t. And I was like, you know, I want to know,” explains Pixler.

Pixler says she, her brother Rob and sister Shawna Garber went through the foster care system and were separated at a young age. So she doesn’t remember much about her sister.

“I remember a couch. What was on the back of the couch. And there was two people that were siblings,” says Pixler.

Knowing that she had family out there, when she was 18 Pixler started searching for her brother and sister. She found her brother Rob after using social media to look for him, but Shawna was still out there.

“I printed her pictures off, I randomly would get into phone books all over, like California. I mean, you name it, I did it. I was bound and determined to find her,” says Shawna.

She later learned that her sister had been in a foster home in Garnett, Kansas. But she was surrendered back to the state, so no one she talked to knew much more than she did about where she could be. So her search continued — and after 28 years, it’s over. Earlier this year, she received a phone call from Lieutenant Michael Hall at the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office, telling her that she could be related to the victim in a cold case homicide from 30 years ago.

“I was like, ‘What?’ I thought somebody was like scamming me or something,” explains Pixler. “I had to call him back to make sure it was him.”

The McDonald County Sheriff’s Office had partnered with Othram, a company in Texas that specializes in human identification for hard to solve cases.

“The testing we do is literally tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of markers of DNA.” explains Michael Vogen, Director of Case Management at Othram. “Using that data, we’re able to generate really good DNA profiles that can then be used to upload into various databases to find the closest of ken of the source of DNA that we’re looking for.”

Using advanced DNA testing and forensic genealogy, the company compiled a genealogical tree of people who could have been related to “Grace Doe.”  Pixler was on that list. So she was asked to provide a DNA sample at the Topeka Police Department. A few weeks later, the results were in. Grace Doe was her sister Shawna.

“I was freaking out. I was overwhelmed. I was crying. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this,'” says Pixler.

So she had finally found her sister Shawna. And even though the outcome wasn’t what she hoped for, it’s still a relief to get some form of closure.

“We just needed that. We all needed that. And it was rough because, yeah, I was having dreams and nightmares, you know? And I just didn’t know what to think,” says Pixler.

Now that “Grace Doe” has been identified, investigators are moving to the next step in the investigation — finding who killed her. And while there are still a lot of unanswered questions, Pixler wanted to share her story so that others in her shoes don’t give up.

“Anything can happen. 50 some years later you could find out. Don’t stop looking, don’t stop… I mean, don’t.”


Woman Found Slain in 1977 ID'd as Wife of Philadelphia Cop, Who Told Kids She'd Run Away

After four decades, authorities have identified the remains of a woman found slain in a drainage ditch near a wooded area of Townsend, Del.

Marie Petry Heiser, a 50-year-old mother and homemaker, was never reported missing, so the slain Philadelphia woman's body hadn't been identified despite being discovered in 1977.

Heiser was found by a teenage boy who spotted her body while riding his bicycle in June of that year, according to a statement from the New Castle County Police.

For years, all police had was a cause of death — homicide — and a description of the woman. They had an estimate of her age — between 40 and 55 years old — and said the woman with dark blonde hair stood 5 feet, 3 inches tall.

Heiser, police said, was the wife of William Heiser, Sr., a member of the Philadelphia Police Department's Highway Patrol during the 1950s and early 1960s.

"They were known for performing thrill shows in area stadiums and arenas," reads a statement from police. Heiser left "the Police Force after being seriously injured while rehearsing for one of these shows," and later worked as a truck driver, according to the statement.

"William Heiser, Sr., relocated to the area of South Daytona Beach Florida in the late 1970s and subsequently died in 2006" from cancer, the statement reads.

It is still unknown how Marie Heiser — who was working part-time at the Ashbourne Country Club in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania — was killed all those years ago, but police say DNA records were used to help name the victim. She was the mother of two children, according to a police statement. They are now adults; her son is a retired sheriff's deputy,

"The children had been told by their father that their mother had packed her bags and left the residence in Philadelphia, leaving behind no information on where she had gone," reads the police statement.

The statement does not identify a person of interest in the killing.

The case remains open and is under active investigation.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact New Castle County Police Detective Jeffrey Sendek at (302) 395-8110. He can also be reached via email at


How a true crime podcast fan helped identify the 11-year-old remains of her former teacher

CONCORD, Mass. — Officials in Maine have identified remains found more than a decade ago as Massachusetts resident and teacher Christopher Roof, after a former student heard about the case on a true crime podcast.

The announcement comes 40 years after the remains of his hotel heiress mother were discovered in the woods of Washington state.

According to Maine State Police and the state Medical Examiner’s Office, the decomposed remains were found by a hunter in the woods of Stacyville, Maine on Nov. 4, 2010.

The DNA of the unidentified body was entered into the database at the time, but did not match a missing person. Police released descriptions of the man’s clothing, including a blue knit hat that said “Chris” on it, but no leads came forward, as reported by The Bangor Daily News.

Then on Aug. 9, 2021, a former acquaintance of Roof called with a tip.

Sydney Copp graduated from Concord-Carlisle High School in 1997, where Roof had taught as a substitute. Copp also attended First Parish Church in Concord with Roof, where he taught Sunday School.

"He was my favorite substitute teacher, he was everyone's favorite substitute and if we got him we were really psyched because you could get away with anything," Copp recalled. "He was the kindest, gentlest soul."

Several of Roof's former students noticed his disappearance in 2011, and created a Facebook group called "Where is Mr. Roof?" hoping to find him.

Years went by without any news of Roof, who, according to Facebook posts, had turned in his apartment keys to his realtor on Aug. 30, 2010. Members of the group said they were unable to file a missing persons report because they had no evidence he was endangered.

Then in March of this year, Copp was listening to a true crime podcast by Josh Hallmark when she heard the description of clothing of the John Doe found in Stacyville. Immediately, it caught her attention.

"They said something about his clothing was like somebody of higher means, not somebody who is homeless or had gone missing," Copp said. "The New Balance sneakers and the dress socks, the khakis, the briefcase that sounded to me like a teacher's bookbag. It all just seemed like Mr. Roof."

Copp said after being encouraged by others who knew Roof, she worked up the courage to call the Maine State Police on Aug. 9. The detectives were able to match Roof's DNA to samples provided by his siblings, and a forensic anthropologist used a photograph of Roof to confirm that his bone structure was a match, Copp said.

Roof’s family never reported him missing as they believed he was choosing to stay estranged, officials said.

Due to the state of the remains, the cause and manner of death are listed as “undetermined," and it's unclear why Roof was in Maine.

Roof’s mother, Marcia Moore also died under mysterious circumstances. Born in Cambridge in 1928, she was the only daughter of Robert L. Moore, founder of the Sheraton Hotel chain. She married Simons Roof and had three children, including Christopher, and the family moved to Concord in 1950.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Marcia Moore wrote books on astrology and yoga and remarried several times, eventually moving to Washington state with her husband Howard Alltounian. According to the biography, Marcia was interested in spiritualism and the occult, and the couple led a reclusive life.

Then in January 1979 Marcia Moore disappeared. Her partial remains were discovered in 1981 some distance from her Washington home, but the cause and circumstances of her death remain unknown.

Roof donated a collection of Moore's writing to the library in 2009, shortly before he disappeared.

After his body was publicly identified last week, several members of the Facebook group shared memories and tributes to Roof.

"Mr. Roof was an incredible educator; he went out of his way to connect with kids who were struggling academically or socially," Abby Marsh wrote. "Whether he knew it or not, he left a huge impact on so many, which was only made more evident by a decade-long search by those who cared for him."

Copp said she hopes to learn more about Roof and his quiet life before his passing.

“It’s sadly satisfying to know where he is, to know that he is in fact gone," Copp said. "We're not still wondering."


Man whose body was found in septic tank on Alberta farm in 1977 was Sixties Scoop survivor, RCMP say

WARNING | This story contains disturbing details

A man whose burned body was found in a septic tank on an Alberta farm in 1977 has been identified as Gordon Edwin Sanderson.

The RCMP said Wednesday that the remains found on the farm outside Tofield are those of Sanderson, a 26-year-old Indigenous man from Manitoba who had been living in Edmonton.

"He was known as Gordie to his family and friends. Gordie had a hard life. He was separated from his family at nine years old during the Sixties Scoop and placed in foster care," Staff Sgt. Jason Zazulak of the Alberta RCMP major crimes unit said during a virtual news conference.

"He was a resident of Edmonton from the 1970s and was last heard from by family when he was going to meet his younger brother, Arthur, in Calgary. Sadly Gordie did not make it to that meeting."

Police said the investigation into the killing remains open.

Police began investigating the death again after the Golden State killer was arrested in 2018 following comparisons of crime-scene DNA evidence with information on genealogy websites that track ancestry.

The RCMP submitted Sanderson's DNA to Othram Inc., a private laboratory in Texas.

Othram specializes in the recovery and analysis of human DNA from degraded or contaminated forensic evidence. It also does genealogical research for policing agencies in Canada and the U.S. It first hit the headlines in Canada after identifying the killer in the 1984 murder of nine-year-old Christine Jessop, who was abducted from Queensville, Ont.

Police said they identified Sanderson in January 2021 and that the case became an active homicide investigation after that.

Sanderson was nicknamed Septic Tank Sam by the RCMP after he was found on April 13, 1977, in the septic tank on the farm owned by Mavis and Charlie McLeod. Both are now deceased.

Their son Greg McLeod, who was 15 at the time Sanderson's body was found, told The Fifth Estate that he didn't know any of the details surrounding Sanderson's death before this week.

"It's such a sad story because Dad never talked about it….  I didn't know any details about it."

McLeod said he is glad that Sanderson's family finally has some answers.

"It's good for everybody that way. I mean, it's still sad what happened. I just can't believe it."

David Mittelman, a geneticist and CEO of Othram, said it was "extremely gratifying" to help with the identification of Sanderson.

"It was exciting to know also that his sister was alive, so she was able to receive in her lifetime an answer to what happened to her brother."

Mittelman's company started working on the case approximately a year ago. He said although they have worked on several hundred cold cases, seeing Sanderson's picture was sad and still hit him hard.

"He was a young guy … and his life was cut short," Mittelman said.

"I'm glad they shared the photo because it reminds you again that these are not statistics and scientific data points. They're real people with actual stories behind them."   

Sanderson is survived by an older sister and a daughter.

Identified as Gordon "Gordie" Edwin Sanderson


Serial killer’s ‘Yonkers Jane Doe’ ID’d nearly 30 years after body found in dumpster

YONKERS, N.Y. — She was a victim of serial killer Robert Shulman, a postal worker from Hicksville, Long Island convicted of killing and dismembering five women in the 1990s using barbells and a baseball bat. But no one knew her name — until now.

Det. John Geiss, of the Yonkers Cold Case Squad, told PIX11 News on Monday Meresa Hammonds was the victim found in a Yonkers dumpster on June 27, 1992. She was a mother of two sons who was living in New Jersey. She was 31 years old.

For 29 years, Hammonds was listed as missing. 

Now, using genetic genealogy, police have confirmed she was one of the serial killer’s victims. 

Shulman once said he used to smoke crack with his victims at his apartment in Patchogue, black out, and then wake up to find them dead in bed. 

The women, who were sex workers, were then dismembered. Shulman deposited the body parts in Long Island dumpsters, sometimes going to Manhattan or — in Hammonds’ case — Yonkers.

“I wanted to try the genealogy (for identification), because it was successful in a Mount Vernon case,” Geiss told PIX11 News on Monday.

Genetic genealogy was also used to track down California’s notorious serial killer and rapist, Joseph DeAngelo, a former cop who was arrested in 2018 at the age of 73.

DeAngelo pleaded guilty in 2020 to 26 counts of murder and kidnapping.

In the Yonkers case, Det. Geiss said he went through the FBI, which has a specialized team. The DNA from Hammonds was put into private genealogy websites.

“After three weeks, we got a hit and it was right on the money,” Geiss said.

Hammonds was identified because one of her cousins had submitted DNA to a genealogy website and it was tied to the then-unknown murder victim.

Geiss then flew to Michigan in early November to meet with Hammonds’ sister and two brothers. They gave DNA samples, which provided a genetic link to the victim. They also identified Hammonds from a photo and a butterfly tattoo on her right, rear shoulder.

The final DNA test that sealed the identification came from Hammonds’ now-adult son, Jason Di Tripani. Geiss said he met with him in New York.

“Jason didn’t know too much about his mom and wondered why his mother didn’t go looking for him,” Geiss said. “At least they have answers.”

One of the positives to come out of the tragedy was Di Tripani learning he has aunts, uncles and cousins.  He met his late mother’s family for Thanksgiving in Michigan.

Di Trapani wrote to forensic genealogist Carl Koppelman on Facebook after his mother’s identification was confirmed.

“I’m truly thankful, and to detective John. She will always be missed, was taken from all of us to(o) young, but like you said, at least we know she was loved and can rest in peace. Best part is getting my mom’s family in my life, because before all of this, I had no clue who they were. Love every single one of the Hammonds family. Truly grateful to have found you. Better late than never. Love all of you more than you could ever know. My mom was truly loved and blessed. Rip MOM 92,'” he wrote.

Shulman initially received a death sentence for one of his murders, but he was later re-sentenced to life without parole for the five killings. He died of natural causes on April 13, 2006, at the age of 52.


20 years later, San Diego police ID woman’s body found burning behind church

Nicole Weis’ body was discovered Jan. 24, 2000, behind College Avenue Baptist Church; her hands had been chopped off
By Alex Riggins
Sept. 30, 2021 7:29 PM PT

For 20 years, the young woman whose hands were chopped off and whose body was found burning behind a College Area church remained identified only as Jane Doe.

But last year, as cold-case investigators scoured ancestral DNA databases looking for potential relatives of the victim, they caught a break. A man in Michigan who was adopted as a child had just uploaded his genetic information into one of those databases in search of his biological family — and investigators determined he was Jane Doe’s half-brother.

Now, San Diego police cold-case homicide investigators know the victim found Jan. 24, 2000, was 20-year-old Nicole Weis. According to police, she grew up in Michigan but lost touch with her family in the late 1990s when she moved to Los Angeles, where it’s believed she likely resided at the time of her death.

What detectives don’t yet know is who killed Weis and set fire to her body, which had been wrapped in cardboard and secured with a rope, in the parking lot of College Avenue Baptist Church, off College Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard.

In a video about the case, produced by the San Diego Police Department, Sgt. Ronnie Philhower described being a patrol officer in January 2000 and showing up first at the scene around 12:15 a.m. to find the body engulfed in flames.

A Union-Tribune story from the time described the body as “burned beyond recognition.” A homicide lieutenant said the victim was dead by the time officers arrived, and speculated she may have been killed elsewhere before being dumped behind the church.

Sometime later, police commissioned an artist’s rendering of the victim, but for nearly two decades, no leads emerged based on the sketch and her identity remained a mystery, according to cold-case investigator Detective Lori Adams. So in 2019, detectives enlisted the help of Barbara Rae-Venter, the genealogist who helped crack the case of the Golden State Killer.

The way investigative genetic genealogy works is that police upload DNA from a crime scene into a public repository of DNA profiles, in hopes that the evidence shares plenty of markers with what’s already in the database. The more markers shared, the closer the relationship, and the smaller the family tree.

But if the familial connections are too distant, the family tree is large, with many potential branches to follow. That was the case when San Diego homicide detectives first uploaded Jane Doe’s DNA — they found only distant relatives.

As investigators were doing the methodical process-of-elimination work needed to identify Jane Doe, adoptee Glen Stevenson uploaded his DNA information online. It was a close match to Jane Doe, who detectives later determined was his half-sister.

From there, detectives tracked down another daughter of Stevenson’s biological father, a Michigan woman named Kimberly Beach. She told police she had a sister who lost contact with the family in the late 1990s.

“We obtained Kimberly Beach’s DNA, and compared it to Jane Doe,” Adams, the cold-case detective, said in the police video. “It verified they are biological siblings. We now had Jane Doe’s real name: Nicole Weis.”

With the victim’s identity confirmed, cold-case detectives are now seeking to speak with anyone who knew Weis, or anyone with information about the killing. Those people can call the San Diego Police Department’s homicide unit at (619) 531-2293, or San Diego County Crime Stoppers’ anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477.

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