Homicide victim found dead in 1979 near Las Vegas Strip ID’d as missing 19-year-old from Cincinnati

Dec 19, 2023, 6:43 PM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A body discovered in an open field in 1979 near what is today a busy intersection of the Las Vegas Strip has been identified as a teenager from Ohio who had left home that year in search of her biological father, authorities announced Tuesday.

She was 19-year-old Gwenn Marie Story, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. For 44 years, she was known only as “Sahara Sue Doe,” nicknamed for the intersection where she was found.

Police said Tuesday that advancements in DNA testing led to the identification last month.

According to police, a man discovered the body on the night of Aug. 14, 1979, while walking through a vacant lot near the northern edge of the Las Vegas Strip. She had wavy hair, and her fingernails and toenails were painted red.

Today, the nearby Strat Hotel looms large over that intersection, which features the Sahara hotel-casino.

Authorities believe the victim had died within 24 hours prior to the discovery, according to an entry detailing the case in a database maintained by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

An autopsy revealed that she had been the victim of a homicide, police said, but investigators weren’t able to identify her until they partnered with a private DNA testing laboratory last September.

Othram, which specializes in forensic genealogy analysis, said in a statement Tuesday that its scientists built “a comprehensive DNA profile for the woman,” leading authorities to possible relatives who provided DNA samples that confirmed “Sahara Sue Doe” was the missing Ohio teen.

Story’s relatives told police that she left home in Cincinnati in the summer of 1979, in search of her father in California. They said she traveled with two male friends. Story’s family never heard from her again.

When the two friends returned to the Cincinnati area in August that year — the same month that Story was found dead — they told the teen’s family that they had left her in Las Vegas, police said.

The police department says it is now turning its focus to those two friends and how Story wound up dead near the Las Vegas Strip.

The breakthrough in Story’s case comes amid advancements in genetic testing that in recent years have led to identifications in missing persons and cold case victims.

Earlier this year, Othram also helped Nevada State Police identify a victim who was nameless for 45 years after her heavily decayed remains were found in a garment bag in a remote area of northern Nevada in October 1978, less than a year before Story was found dead in Las Vegas. The victim in that case, Florence Charleston, also went missing from Ohio.

National News

Associated Press

More severe weather forecast in Midwest as Iowa residents clean up tornado damage

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — The skies were blue and the wind was blowing as residents of the small city of Greenfield, Iowa, worked to clean up two days after a destructive tornado ripped apart more than 100 homes in just one minute, took the lives of four residents and injured at least 35 more. All […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Ohio governor calls special session to pass legislation ensuring President Biden is on 2024 ballot

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday that he is calling a special session of the General Assembly next week to pass legislation ensuring President Joe Biden is on the state’s 2024 ballot. “Ohio is running out of time to get Joe Biden, the sitting President of the United States, on […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. California’s law is meant to circumvent an Arizona law — first passed in 1864 — that bans nearly all abortions in that state. The Arizona Supreme Court had ruled that […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge says $475,000 award in New Hampshire youth center abuse case would be ‘miscarriage of justice’

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The judge who oversaw a landmark trial over abuse at New Hampshire’s youth detention center says capping the verdict at $475,000 as the state proposes would be an “unconscionable miscarriage of justice.” In a lengthy order issued Wednesday, Judge Andrew Schulman outlined five options for addressing the dispute that arose after […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Those who helped file voting fraud allegations are protected from suit, North Carolina justices say

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday threw out a defamation lawsuit against attorneys who assisted voters with submitting some 2016 ballot complaints, saying the fraud allegations they helped make were broadly protected within the protest process. The 5-0 ruling overturns the decision of a lower appeals court that determined only […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A northern Arizona man was convicted in a jury trial Thursday of first-degree murder and other crimes in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son. Authorities say the boy was locked in a tiny bedroom closet for 16 hours a day over a month with his older brother as punishment […]

11 hours ago

Homicide victim found dead in 1979 near Las Vegas Strip ID’d as missing 19-year-old from Cincinnati