PERSHING COUNTY, Nev. (TCD) -- Officials positively identified a woman whose remains were found inside a garment bag and buried in a shallow grave over 40 years ago.
According to DNA technology company Othram, on Oct. 26, 1978, Pershing County Sheriff's Office officials went to an area near Scossa Road about 13 miles west of Imlay, Nevada, after receiving a report about the discovery of human remains. Deputies located a garment bag and found "several evidentiary items at the scene, including women's clothing."
The remains were taken to the Washoe Medical Center in Reno where the coroner conducted an autopsy and determined the victim inside the bag was a white female between 40 and 50 years old. The coroner could not determine her cause of death due to the state of decomposition.
Several months later, in May 1979, the Pershing County Sheriff's Office and the Nevada Department of Public Safety Investigation Division started looking into ways of identifying the woman. Detectives submitted dental records and worked with the FBI to find identifying markers on the clothing found inside the bag. The victim's case information was submitted into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), though the case went cold.
In March 2022, investigators from the Nevada Department of Public Safety Investigation Division and NamUs contacted Othram to help identify the woman. They submitted DNA to Othram, who created a profile of the woman and eventually found out she was Florence Charleston of Cleveland.
She reportedly moved from Cleveland to Portland, Oregon, in the early 1970s, but her family last spoke with her in 1978. According to The Associated Press, Charleston would most likely have been in her late 60s when she died.
One of Charleston's nieces told The Associated Press she wondered, "Was she happy, or not? Was she safe? All these questions I had, and it turns out she was dead."
Othram said the investigation into Charleston's death remains ongoing.