BRACEVILLE – The Grundy County Coroner's Office is trying a new tactic to identify a woman found dead in Grundy County more than 40 years ago.
On Tuesday, representatives of the coroner's office were on hand as the woman's body was exhumed from an unmarked grave in Braceville-Gardner Cemetery.
The woman's body was found on Oct. 2, 1976, in a field in Erienna Township near Seneca. Her death was ruled a homicide from a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
As she remained unidentified for weeks, she was buried on Thanksgiving morning, 1976, in an unmarked grave. Grundy County Coroner John Callahan and Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson have been working the reopened case for approximately a year-and-a-half, hoping improvements in technology will lead to a positive identification.
Tips have come in from the public, but so far there has been no positive identification. Although progress has been slow on the cold case, there has been a silver lining. The coroner's office has encouraged two families to finally report their relatives missing.
“We reached a corner with the initial DNA obtained from the victim’s sweater and felt that we stood a better chance of identifying this female by exhuming her and sending bones to UNTHCI (The University of North Texas Human Center for Identification) in Fort Worth, Texas. The lab specializes in mitochondrial DNA, something more enhanced. We also look forward to using genealogy in the near future,” Johnson said.
The office has also worked with the Illinois State Police Crime Lab, NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), The DOE Network, The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children and various forensic artists, who helped create images of how the female may have appeared in 1976.
The office also created a Facebook page for the case, which has reached people nationwide, helping to get the word and sketch out in other states. The page can be found at facebook.com/grundycountycoldcase.