How a Student's Diligence Helped Solve 1975 Mystery

A cemetery index entry of 'Unknown Female White Bones' bothered her too much to ignore
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2018 10:43 AM CDT
Cheryl Pagano, left, sister of Linda Pagano, talks with Christina Scates in Cleveland, Ohio, on Thursday.   (Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal via AP)
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(Newser) – For 40 years, the skeleton with a bullet hole in its left temple carried the title of "Unknown White Female Bones." No longer, thanks to an Ohio college student and the Californian forensic artist she inspired. The Washington Post has new details on the case: Christina Scates, 23, first came across the entry for the remains found in Strongsville in 1975 and later buried at a Cleveland cemetery while working on a family genealogy project in 2014. "It was at the back of my mind nagging at me," she tells the Post, noting that the remains belonged to a young woman like herself and were found just 20 minutes from her home. "I thought I should do something." After perusing a 100-page police file, Scates shared details of the case on Reddit and Websleuths.com. That's when hobby forensic artist Carl Koppelman got involved—though the resulting break in the case had nothing to do with his sketch.

Later contacted by authorities regarding a different case, Koppelman mentioned the unidentified bones and learned the file hadn't been entered into a national database for missing persons created in 2003 because of a typo, reports the Akron Beacon Journal. The error corrected, the bones drew the immediate interest of an Akron detective when he entered a 1974 missing persons report in the same database months later. For starters, Linda Pagano, then 17, had disappeared only five months before the bones were found, and 30 miles away. The bones were exhumed, and a DNA test confirmed they were Pagano's last week. Now all that remains is to find her killer. Pagano was last known to have been kicked out of her father's Akron home, where she was saying in the summer of 1974, after returning late from a concert, police say.

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