Victim in 40-Year-Old Arizona Cold Case IDed as St. Louis County Woman
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Arizona officials identified the deceased victim in a nearly 40-year-old cold case as a young woman from St. Louis County.
The murder investigation is known as the “Valentine Sally Case” in Arizona because the victim’s body was found on February 14, 1982 on the I-40 side west of Williams, Arizona. Until now, it was one of the oldest Jane Doe falls in all of Arizona.
Using DNA, detectives were able to identify the victim as seventeen-year-old Carolyn Eaton. According to a press release from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, officials used grants from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to pay a private seller to search his database for family DNA that matched that of the victim. These tests took them to family members in the St. Louis area.
When detectives spoke to these family members, they were informed that a sibling ran away from home just before Christmas in 1981. Police collected DNA samples from the family that matched those of the victim.
“Identifying unidentified victims is a difficult and lengthy process and can be costly for authorities trying to identify crime victims,” the press release said in part. “Recent breakthroughs in DNA technology have enabled law enforcement agencies to identify both victims and suspects in such cold cases.”
DNA technology has helped researchers solve other high profile cases in recent years. In 2018, police arrested serial killer Joseph James DeAngelo, nicknamed the “Golden State Killer,” who avoided California detectives for decades before officers used his DNA to track his ancestors through a private company. With DNA ancestors such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com growing in popularity, police suspect that in cold cases they will lead to more arrests.
As for the Carolyn Eaton case, the police still have no suspects in the open murder – but they hope they’ll be able to clear out more leads once they know who she is.
“After the victim is identified, detectives are working on leads designed to identify potential suspects. Detectives and the Cold Case Squad of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office are still working hard on this case,” the news release said. adding, “Sheriff Driscoll would like to thank members of the community and help law enforcement, the sheriff’s staff, and the victim’s family who have worked so long to identify Carolyn and to close this tragic case to some extent.”
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