The remains of a woman found in a small Massachusetts town in 1978 were identified more than four decades after her death using “old fashioned police work” – and help from advances in forensic genetic genealogy, officials announced Monday.
Referred to for decades as “Granby girl,” alluding to the town about 12 miles north of Springfield where her body was found, the woman was identified Monday as Patricia Ann Tucker, First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said in a news conference.
DNA samples from Tucker’s son – who was only five years old when she died – helped in identifying his mother, according to investigators.
On November 15, 1978, Tucker’s skeletal remains were found in a wooded area near a logging road in Granby, about 85 miles west of Boston. An autopsy revealed she died of a bullet wound to her left temple, Gagne said.
The remains had been “out in the elements for several months” before she was found, and the autopsy could only conclude that it was an unnamed woman between the ages of 19 and 27, he said. Her identity still a mystery, she was buried under a white cross. Years later, a headstone without a name was installed.
Authorities continued to examine the cold case, checking missing persons databases for years to no avail, according to Gagne.
“Ultimately it was advances in forensic science, and in particular, forensic genetic genealogy that provided a new source of hope for identifying the victim, who for decades, had been known simply as ‘Granby Girl,’” Gagne said.
A “biological sample” from the remains was sent in March 2022 to Othram, a forensic laboratory in Texas credited with helping solve a lengthy list of other cold cases, Gagne said. Months later, on January 23, 2023, “the big break that investigators had been waiting for for decades finally came,” he said. The lab told investigators they had located a relative living in Maryland who could be the victim’s half-sister.
Investigators spoke with the woman on January 30 and found she had an aunt, who was a mother of two sons, who went missing in the 1970s, Gagne said. Authorities found one of the sons, who had previously uploaded his DNA to Ancestory.com, and used his profile to confirm with the lab that the previously unidentified woman was his mother.
Her son, Matthew Dale, released a statement through the district attorney’s office and thanked investigators for “never giving up on her.”
“At least I have some answers now after 44 years,” he said. “It’s a lot to process, but hopefully, the closure can begin now. Thank you again.”
Investigators now hope to generate leads and find who killed Tucker, who was 28 years old when she died, Gagne said.
The prosecutor noted investigators discovered she was married at the time of her death and her husband at the time never reported her disappearance. The pair had lived along the eastern shore of Lake Pocotopaug in East Hampton, Connecticut, Gagne said, calling the husband “a person of strong interest” in the case.
Gagne said the husband died in a state prison in 1996 after being convicted of rape, indecent assault and battery and assault with a dangerous weapon the year before.
“Now that we know Patricia’s identity and know who she was married to at the time of her disappearance,” Gagne said, “there may be people out there who knows something about either one of them that could help further this investigation.”
CNN’s Braden Walker contributed to this report.