NATIONAL NEWS

Remains found stuffed in garment bag 45 years ago in rural Nevada ID’d as Ohio woman

Jun 14, 2023, 2:11 PM | Updated: 6:32 pm

This undated photo provided by Nevada State Police shows Florence Charleston, left, holding her nie...

This undated photo provided by Nevada State Police shows Florence Charleston, left, holding her niece. In 1978, a garment bag containing a woman's heavily decayed remains was discovered in a remote area of northern Nevada. On Wednesday, June 14, 2023, Nevada State Police announced that advancements in DNA testing led recently to an identification: Florence Charleston, a Cleveland woman who had moved to Portland, Ore., shortly before her death. (Nevada State Police via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Nevada State Police via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — In 1978, a garment bag containing a woman’s heavily decayed remains was discovered in a remote area of northern Nevada.

The case soon went cold — and the victim remained nameless for 45 years.

But on Wednesday, Nevada State Police announced that advancements in DNA testing have finally led to an identification. She was Florence Charleston, a Cleveland, Ohio, woman in her late 60s who had moved to Portland, Oregon, shortly before her death.

How Charleston wound up dead and buried in a shallow grave 535 miles (860 kilometers) away from her new home is still a mystery. Police said Wednesday in a news release announcing the DNA match that the investigation into her death is ongoing.

Diane Liggitt, one of Charleston’s few surviving relatives, said she was around 18 when she learned from her father that her aunt had left for the Pacific Northwest with a new boyfriend sometime in the early 1970s. Decades passed. The family never heard from Charleston again.

Throughout the years, Liggitt told The Associated Press, she thought a lot about her Aunt “Dolly” — a childhood nickname that stuck.

“Was she happy, or not? Was she safe?” Liggitt said. “All these questions I had, and it turns out she was dead.”

Charleston’s remains were found in October 1978 in the small Nevada town of Imlay, about two hours north of Reno. Inside the garment bag, officers with the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office — the initial lead investigating agency — also found some articles of women’s clothing.

An autopsy revealed the decomposing remains likely belonged to a middle-aged woman but failed to determine a cause of death, police said. Liggitt said her aunt would have been around 68 at the time of her death.

The case was later entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, along with a rendering of what detectives thought the woman looked like at the time of her death.

According to that entry, the woman was thought to be 5-foot-5 with red or auburn hair. Investigators also thought she may have been left-handed. The clothing items found with her remains included a dark-green sweater with a white safety pin attached to the front, dark-green trousers and a long-sleeved pink sweater.

In spring of 1979, Nevada State Police detectives were called in to help with the probe. They tried digital facial reconstruction. They compared dental records with other missing persons and unsolved cases. They looked for clues in the articles of clothing dumped with the remains.

But their efforts were unsuccessful.

Then last March, police said, they teamed up with Othram Inc., a private laboratory specializing in forensic genealogy analysis that has helped close countless other cold cases nationwide.

In a separate news release, Othram said Wednesday they used DNA taken from the remains “to develop a comprehensive DNA profile for the unidentified woman,” leading investigators to two of Charleston’s nieces still living in Ohio.

Liggitt said she received the news in April. She was on her way out of the house when her phone rang. She didn’t recognize the out-of-state phone number, but she answered it anyway.

On the other end of the line was Nevada State Police Detective Sean Koester, who had taken over the cold case in October 2022. By then, Koester said, the case had been dormant for 40-plus years.

Koester introduced himself. He’d been trying to reach her and her cousin, Donna, he said, to talk about a set of 45-year-old human remains.

“You found my Aunt Dolly?” Liggitt recalled telling the detective.

Soon after that phone call, Othram was able to link Charleston to the unidentified remains by using a DNA sample from Liggitt’s cousin.

Now around the same age as Charleston had been at the time of her death, Liggitt said she hopes to live long enough to learn how and why her Aunt Dolly was killed.

National News

The Butler Farm Show, site of a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate former Preside...

Associated Press

Gunman in Trump rally attack flew drone over rally site in advance of event, official says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gunman in the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump is believed to have flown a drone around the Pennsylvania rally site ahead of time in an apparent attempt to scope out the site before the event, a law enforcement official said Saturday. The drone has been recovered by the FBI, […]

56 minutes ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump and Melania Trump during the final ...

Associated Press

Trump campaign releases letter on his injury, treatment after last week’s assassination attempt

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s campaign released an update on the former president’s health Saturday, one week after he survived an attempted assassination at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania. The memo, from Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson, who served as Trump’s White House physician, offers new details on the nature of the GOP nominee’s injuries […]

58 minutes ago

Associated Press

California officials say largest trial court in US victim of ransomware attack

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A ransomware attack has shut down the computer system of the largest trial court in the country, officials with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County said. The cybersecurity attack began early Friday and is not believed to be related to the faulty CrowdStrike software update that has disrupted airlines, hospitals […]

1 hour ago

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. A 12-year-o...

Associated Press

A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

HUMBOLDT, Tenn. (AP) — A 12-year-old girl in Tennessee has been charged with murder, accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin as the younger girl slept. A relative said they had been arguing over an iPhone. A security camera recorded the killing, inside the bedroom they shared on July 15 in Humboldt, Tennessee, the county prosecutor […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Man in custody after 4 found dead in Brooklyn apartment attack, NYPD says

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department says it has taken a man into custody in connection with the deaths of a grandmother, a mother and her two children in the family’s Brooklyn apartment. Police said in a statement Saturday that officers responded to a report late Friday night of an assault, and […]

3 hours ago

CrowdStrike...

MATT O'BRIEN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

How a faulty CrowdStrike update crashed computers around the world

All it took was one faulty CrowdStrike software update to cause global disruptions that grounded flights, and other services.

4 hours ago

Remains found stuffed in garment bag 45 years ago in rural Nevada ID’d as Ohio woman