Missouri Teen ID’d as the 1982 Arizona Cold Case Victim
The body of a girl found off a freeway in Arizona almost 40 years ago on Valentine’s Day has been identified as a teenage runaway from Missouri, according to sheriff officials.
Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll announced Monday that 17-year-old Carolyn Eaton was the young murder victim found off Interstate 40 west of Williams on February 14, 1982. This ended a decade-long search for the previously known girl only as “Valentine Sally”.
Eaton had been living in Bellefontaine Neighbors, St. Louis County when she ran away from her home sometime around Christmas 1981 or early 1982, authorities said.
An Arizona State soldier found the dead girl while helping another motorist, but investigators couldn’t establish her identity until they partnered with a company earlier this year to compare DNA from the body to online ancestral databases.
“Through this process, detectives were able to locate potential family members of Carolyn, obtain DNA samples from them, and confirm the body’s identity as Carolyn,” department officials said Monday. “The recent breakthroughs in DNA technology have enabled law enforcement agencies to identify both victims and suspects in such cold cases.”
The DNA from the girl’s body ultimately matched a first cousin in the St. Louis area, Coconino County Sheriff Jason Lurkins told St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Detectives then traveled to the greater St. Louis area to interview relatives who said they had a sibling who ran away from home around Christmas 1981, sheriff officials said.
“The family members were impressed,” Lurkins told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We told a family member that we were investigating a missing person case and they asked, is it about Carolyn?”
Eaton, one of six sisters, was a murder victim, but the condition of her body when it was found prevented any specific cause of death from being narrowed down, Lurkins said.
Eaton was dead for about two weeks before it was discovered, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The search for a suspect in her death continues, sheriff officials said.