Decayed remains found 45 years ago stuffed in a bag in Nevada have finally been identified thanks to advancements in DNA testing.
The remains were found in October 1978 in the small Nevada town of Imlay, about two hours north of Reno.
Officers also found some articles of women’s clothing inside the garment bag.
On Wednesday, Nevada State Police announced advancements in DNA testing had led to an identification.
‘All these questions I had and it turns out she was dead’
The woman has been identified as Florence Charleston from Cleveland, Ohio.
She was in her late 60s and had moved to Portland, Oregon, shortly before her death.
Ms Charleston was murdered and buried in a shallow grave 535 miles (860km) away from her new home.
Her death remains a mystery.
In a recent press release, police announced that the investigation into her death is still ongoing.
One of Ms Charleston’s few surviving relatives, Diane Liggitt, said she was around 18 when she learned from her father that her aunt had left for the Pacific Northwest with a new boyfriend sometime in the early 1970s.
Decades passed and the family never heard from Ms Charleston again.
Ms Liggitt said she thought a lot about her Aunt Dolly – a childhood nickname given to Ms Charleston – after her disappearance.
“Was she happy, or not? Was she safe?” Ms Liggitt added.
“All these questions I had, and it turns out she was dead.”
Ms Liggitt said her aunt would have been around 68 at the time of her death.
The autopsy report
Police said an autopsy revealed the decomposing remains likely belonged to a middle-aged woman but failed to determine the cause of death.
The case was later entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, along with a rendering of what detectives thought the woman looked like at the time of her death.
In that entry, the woman was thought to be 5ft 5 with red or auburn hair.
Officials at the time also thought the woman may have been left-handed.
The clothes found in the bag with her remains were a dark-green sweater with a white safety pin attached to the front, dark-green trousers and a long-sleeved pink sweater.
In March 2022, police teamed up with Othram, a private laboratory which specialised in forensic genealogy analysis.
Othram said they used DNA which was taken from the remains “to develop a comprehensive DNA profile for the unidentified woman”.
This development led officers to Ms Charleston’s nieces currently living in Ohio.
Ms Liggitt received a call in April from Nevada State Police Detective Sean Koester, who had taken over the cold case in October 2022.
Ms Charleston’s niece now hopes to live long enough to learn how and why her Aunt Dolly was killed.