After over half a century, investigators in St. Petersburg, Florida, say they have learned the identity of the city’s oldest and most notorious cold case victim. Sylvia June Atherton, a 41-year-old mother of five from Arizona, was the woman whose body was discovered in a wooden trunk 53 years ago on Halloween, authorities announced.
According to a press release from the St. Petersburg Police Department, two officers found a black steamer trunk in the woods behind a restaurant on Oct. 31, 1969, in the 4200 block of 34th Street South.
Inside, officers found a woman wrapped in a large plastic bag. She had visible head injuries, was strangled with a man’s Western-style bolo tie, and was partially clothed in a pajama top. The unnamed victim was buried as “Jane Doe” in Memorial Park Cemetery.
The case quickly gained notoriety, with the victim being dubbed the “Trunk Lady,” and was featured in various television shows, articles, and cold case conferences.
Forty years after discovering the “Trunk Lady,” a doctor with the University of Southern Florida’s Department of Anthropology assisted authorities in exhuming her remains. Efforts to identify the victim using teeth and bone samples over the years proved challenging due to their degraded state. However, earlier this year marked a breakthrough when a St. Petersburg police cold case detective discovered original samples of the victim’s hair and skin, which had been taken during the victim’s initial autopsy.
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