Body of Strangled Woman Found in Canal Finally Identified as Young Mother Who Married Into Crime Family: Cops

Cold Case Murder Victim Finally Identified
Murder victim in Florida cold case has been identified as Lori Kearsey.Handout

A cold case murder victim has finally been identified as 23-year-old mother who was strangled and dumped in a canal, authorities said.

The body of a 23-year-old woman found strangled and face-down in a Florida canal has finally been identified after nearly 40 years. She was a young mother who had recently married into a notorious Boston crime family, police said. 

Lori Jane Kearsey was identified by DNA from bone fragments that matched genetic material from her daughter, Maehgan Smith, who lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

"I was so overwhelmed because I resigned myself to the fact that I thought I'd probably never know what happened to her," Smith told local reporters at a Tuesday news conference.

Kearsey's body was found floating in a Davie canal in 1984. She had been strangled, police said. A description of the woman — who had blonde hair and was 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds — was released with a call for help, but that did not aid investigators, authorities said.

The cold case was recently reopened and genetic testing was performed on her remains, police said.

“Investigators used several resources to assist with forensic digital imagining, DNA extraction and identification of a potential family tree,” Davie Police Sgt. Kevin Urbaez told reporters. “Using all those resources, investigators were able to locate the victim’s daughter."

Smith was just a little girl when her mother disappeared. Her parents had divorced, and her mother had recently remarried.

“She had dropped me off on the weekend and just didn’t go back,” Smith said Tuesday. Now a mother herself with two daughters, ages 18 and 21, Smith said she often worried what her mom endured at the time of her killing.

"I just can’t even imagine what that feeling was like for her, and it’s heartbreaking," Smith said.

Kearsey was living in Massachusetts and police said they are still investigating why she had journeyed to Florida.

Neither police nor Smith would release the name of the crime family Kearsey had married into.

"My whole life I knew something happened to her," Smith said. "'She was a kid. She could have grown up (but) she never got a chance."

Investigators are asking anyone with knowledge of the case to contact Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. There is a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect.

"That’s our goal in this case, to bring additional closure, but to also bring those who were involved in this criminal case to justice,” Sgt. Urbaez said.

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