Remains of Arizona woman left strangled in trunk identified by police in Florida 53 years after her death

The death of a woman dubbed the “trunk lady” – after her remains were found in a case in the woods – has been a mystery for 53 years.

But now, one of the most infamous cold case victims has been identified through DNA.

Her name was Sylvia June Atherton, police confirmed in a statement this week.

Ms Atherton’s body was discovered by two police officers on Halloween 1969.

The corpse was inside a black case, wrapped in a large plastic bag, in the Florida city of St. Petersburg.

Ms Atherton was a 41-year-old mother of five from Tucson, Arizona, police said in a statement on Facebook.

Following the breakthrough, police have launched a fresh appeal for anyone with information regarding Ms Atherton’s death or the whereabouts of two of her daughters, who have not been located.

“The victim had visible injuries to her head and had been strangled with a man’s Western-style Bolo tie. She was partially clothed in a pajama top,” police added.

Witnesses said two white men left the case in the area after they carried it from a pickup truck, according to St. Petersburg Police’s Assistant Chief, Michael Kovacsev.

Over the years, police tried multiple times to identify the victim – even exhuming her body from an unmarked grave in 2010 – but samples of teeth and bone were “too degraded”.

That was until this year, when a sample of the victim’s hair and skin taken during the original post-mortem was found and tested.

Detective Wally Pavelski contacted the victim’s children, including Syllen Gates, of California, who was nine years old at the time of her mother’s disappearance.

Ms Gates told police that her mother left Arizona for Chicago with her husband, Stuart Brown, five-year-old daughter Kimberly Anne Brown, son Gary Sullivan, daughter Donna and her husband David Lindhurst.


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