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Gwenn Marie Story, 19, ID,d as Homicide victim found in 1979 near Las Vegas Strip

LAS VEGAS – An Ohio adolescent who had departed from home that year in quest of her biological father was identified Tuesday by authorities as the body found in an open field in 1979, close to what is now a bustling crossroads of the Las Vegas Strip. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department reported that the woman was 19-year-old Gwenn Marie Story. For four decades, nobody spoke about anyone other than “Sahara Sue Doe,” a moniker given to her by the crossroads where she was discovered.

On Tuesday, authorities announced that the identification last month was made possible by new advances in DNA testing. On the evening of August 14, 1979, a man was going through an empty lot on the northern border of the Las Vegas Strip when he found the body, according to the police. Her red-painted fingernails and toenails complemented her wavy hair. Overlooking the junction where the Sahara hotel-casino is located, the adjacent Strat Hotel now stands tall.

According to a case entry in a database kept by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, authorities believe the child had died within 24 hours before the discovery. Her homicide status was confirmed by an autopsy, according to the police; nonetheless, her identification remained elusive until last September, when they collaborated with a private DNA testing facility. In a statement released on Tuesday, Othram—a company that focuses on forensic genealogy—announced that its experts had created “a comprehensive DNA profile for the woman.” This led investigators to potential relatives who volunteered DNA samples, which ultimately proved that “Sahara Sue Doe” was the missing Ohio adolescent.

Story departed from her Cincinnati home in the summer of 1979, according to her relatives, in pursuit of her father in California. Two male pals accompanied her, according to reports. Story remained incommunicado with her family. According to authorities, the two pals informed Story’s family that they had abandoned her in Las Vegas when they returned to the Cincinnati region in August of that year, the same month in which she was discovered dead. According to the police, their attention has now shifted to those two acquaintances and the circumstances surrounding Story’s death close to the Las Vegas Strip.

Recent developments in DNA testing have increased the number of identifications and arrests in cold cases, including those involving sexual assault, missing persons, and homicide. The breakthrough in Story’s case follows this trend. Just this year, Othram assisted the Nevada State Police in identifying a victim whose identity had been unknown for 45 years following the discovery of her severely decomposed remains in a clothing bag in a remote location of northern Nevada in October 1978—less than a year before to Story’s death in Las Vegas. Florence Charleston, the Ohio woman who was missing in that case, was also a missing person.

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