Remains found in 1975 have finally been identified as those of an Ohio girl who disappeared the year before, thanks to DNA testing.
Linda Pagano vanished after getting into a fight with her stepfather in September 1974, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. He told police he threw her out of their house in Kenmore and she was never seen again, the paper reported.
Then, in February 1975, a partial skeleton was found along a riverbank in the Mill Stream Run Reservation, according to the paper. It was determined the remains were those of a woman in her late teens or early 20s, but no further information was gleaned. The manner of death was ruled a homicide by the Cuyahoga County coroner and the remains were buried in a pauper's grave later that year.
A break in the case came in 2015, when genealogy researcher Christina Scates encountered a reference to "unknown white female bones" and posted about it on Reddit, where it came to the attention of Carl Koppelman, a forensic artist.
He drew an image from a photo of the partial skeleton and posted it online, but had no luck identifying the girl. Then, Cuyahoga County reached out to him about a separate case and he decided to ask them about the bones.
"What bones?" was the reply, he said.
It turned out that a misspelled word had kept Pagano's case from being added to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a database for missing persons, according to the Beacon Journal. The case was added to the database and a hit came almost immediately.
The remains were eventually exhumed and sent for DNA testing. They were recently found to be a match for Pagano.
Her siblings learned of the match Tuesday, and it came as a relief.
"I pretty much figured it was her," said Mike Pagano, Linda's brother. "I wasn’t really surprised. Relieved. It's basically over — and we get some closure."
Now, Linda will receive a proper burial.
“This is a miracle as far as I’m concerned,” Mike said.
As for what happened to Linda — and who killed her — that remains a mystery.