The skeleton of a teenage girl who went missing in the US state of Virginia nearly 50 years ago has been identified thanks to a DNA breakthrough.
Patricia Agnes Gildawie, also known as Choubi, was last seen in Fairfax City on February 8, 1975. She was 17 years old at the time.
On September 21, 2001, the remains of a woman were found by a construction team behind an apartment complex and near a drainage ditch, along with some clothing, in McLean.
Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office said the remains have now been identified as those of Ms. Gildawie.
After her discovery 21 years ago, an initial examination revealed she had died from a gunshot wound to the head. The report also indicates that the remains are likely to be of an African-American woman in her late teens to early 20s.
However, cold case detectives worked this year with Othram, which performs forensic-grade DNA testing and genome sequencing, and identified the remains as belonging to a white woman.
The examination identified a half-sister, Veronique Duperly, who shared Ms Gildawie’s story.
‘100% match within 15 minutes’
Ms Duperly described the moment last month when detectives told her that company testing linked her Ancestry.com results to Ms Gildawie.
“When I gave them my DNA, they sent it to the lab while they were sitting here in my living room, and they had a 100% match within 15 minutes,” she said.
Ms Duperly said Ms Gildawie was dating an older man at the time, who lent her the white Cadillac Eldorado with red interior that she drove the last time Duperly saw her. .
That was also the day Miss Duperly noticed bruises on her half-sister.
She told NBC News: “The bruises on her upper arm, shoulder and instep.
“I said, ‘Well, why are you so black and blue?” She said, ‘I fall a lot.’ I said, ‘No, you don’t.’
‘We know the killer is still out there’
Police wanted to speak to her boyfriend, but they didn’t know his name – only that he was about 30 years old at the time of Ms Gildawie’s death and worked at a now-closed upholstery shop near St. Church and Lawyer Street in the town of Vienna, Virginia.
Ms. Gildawie was born in France in February 1958 and came to the US when she was 8 months old. In the early 1970s, she moved to Fairfax.
“We’re moving fast and furious. We know the killer is still out there,” said Ed O’Carroll, chief of major crime and cyber forensics.
He added: “The identification of this young woman solving a mystery that has been more than 47 years has been carried out.
“Our community should take comfort in knowing that our detectives never stop working on these cases.
“Advances in technology have given my cold case detectives the opportunity to pursue new leads and provide relief to families who have long endured the unknown. “
No information has been released regarding any allegations of Ms Gildawie’s death. Police continue to investigate, using new information from the family.