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Identity Of Staten Island's 'Girl With The Scorpion Tattoo' Solved Three Decades Later With Forensic Genealogy
Staten Island's "girl with the scorpion tattoo," who went unnamed since her beaten, strangled and burned body was discovered in September of 1991, has been identified as 30-year-old Christine Belusko using forensic genealogy, police said Tuesday.
New York City officials named a murder victim previously only known as "the girl with the scorpion tattoo" on Tuesday, more than 31 years after her body was discovered in a field on the East Shore of Staten Island in 1991.
After her cold case was reopened in 2019, 30-year-old Christine Belusko of Clifton, New Jersey was finally identified using new forensic genealogical technology, Richmond County District Attorney Michael E. McMahon explained at a Tuesday press conference.
"Today we want to speak about the case of the girl with the scorpion tattoo," McMahon said. "This is a story about a brutal and depraved murder — depraved acts of violence that killed this young girl in her prime."
On Sept. 20, 1991, Belusko's body was found by two employees of a psychiatric hospital who initially mistook her for a mannequin, according to the New York Times. Her corpse was face-up, handcuffed, and burned. Coroners attributed her death to strangulation and 17 blows to her head likely delivered by a hammer found underneath her body.
A vial of the victim's blood and a sample of her tissue was held for years by the New York City Medical Examiner's office in the hopes that future technology might determine who she was.
For years, the only clue to her identity was the scorpion tattoo on her right buttock. With no name, she was buried in an unmarked grave on Hart Island off the Bronx. But due to the brutality of her killing, McMahon said, police never gave up trying to find out who she was.
A positive match for Belusko's DNA was made by a laboratory in Houston in April of 2021, said McMahon, alongside officials from the FBI, the New York Police Department and the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner.
One of Belusko's eight biological siblings was then able to provide a cheek swab to confirm that match, the Times reported.
From there, officials were able figure out who Belusko's adoptive parents were, Frank and Dorothy Belusko. The pair adopted Christine from a New Jersey woman who had eight other children, the Times reported.
"Not only were we able to determine the identity of the victim, but we also determined that Christine had a daughter, Christa Nicole, who was approximately 2 years old at the time of Christine's murder," McMahon said.
However, officials said, the whereabouts of the slain single mother's daughter — who would now be 34 years old — are currently unknown. Progression pictures conceived from childhood pictures investigators obtained of the girl were shared in the hopes that she might be recognized and, ultimately, notified of her mother's death.
“Is she alive? Is she well?” said Pat Savage, a Staten Island NYPD detective investigator assigned to the "scorpion girl" case in 1993 before becoming a detective at McMahon's office, asked on Tuesday.
According to The Charley Project, which tracks missing persons cases, Christa was last seen at the Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos a week before her mother was found dead. The girl's mother stayed there briefly after leaving Clifton. She had planned to move to Florida. Belusko's brother reportedly thought that she and her daughter had been living there since he had last seen her and lost touch.
Police said they did not know why Belusko was in Staten Island, where she was killed.
McMahon said the dress Belusko was found in, obtained at a location of the Rainbow Shops chain where she worked in New Jersey, also helped investigators confirm her identity.
It is unclear why officials waited until now to publicly disclose Belusko's name.
Police said that although they have identified the woman's body, they are still looking for leads to catch her killer.
"Given the facts of the case and what transpired, and the way in which she was murdered, it does not seem random," McMahon said. "This was someone who knew her. It's an intimate type of murder."
In a later Facebook post, the Richmond County District Attorney's Office encouraged anyone with information regarding Belusko's personal life or the whereabouts of her daughter to call 718-556-7085 or reach out via email at email@example.com.