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Remains recovered from a Vermont gravel pit in 2019 have been identified as belonging to a 43-year-old automotive worker from upstate New York, according to authorities.
Jessica Hildenbrandt’s death was ruled a homicide but state investigators remain stumped as to who killed her, as well as exactly how, where, and when she died.
Investigators used "DNA analysis and extensive investigative work," to identify the New York woman, according to the Bennington Banner.
“There are many factors that impact that turnaround,” Det. Lt. John-Paul Schmidt, of the Vermont State Police, told the outlet. “It’s a relatively rare event, especially for Vermont. Unfortunately real life forensics only vaguely resembles how it is depicted on television and in the movies.”
A passerby wandering through a gravel pit located near a reservoir in Searsburg, Vermont stumbled upon Hildenbrandt’s remains in September 2019.
The Vermont Chief Medical Examiner's Office has ruled her death a homicide, although Hildenbrandt’s cause of death is currently “undetermined,” the Bennington Banner reported.
“It takes a certain mindset to devalue a human life and do these kind of things, and that is something we consider in investigations,” Schmidt said.
Heldenbrandt’s apparent slaying marks the first in Bennington County since 2017, the Bennington Banner reported.
“I’ve been with the VSP for 21 years, I don’t remember ever seeing anything like that in Bennington County,” Schmidt said.
Authorities said the New York woman was known to spend time in that area of Vermont.
“What I can tell you is that she knew people and spent time in and around Bennington," Adam Silverman, a public information officer for the Vermont State Police, previously told the Bennington Banner.
Authorities suspect Hildenbrandt’s killer is still at large. No arrests have been made in the 2019 slaying, however investigators have reportedly received a number of tips since requesting the public’s assistance in September.
“We’re always looking for people to talk to us,” Schmidt said. “If they have information, we’d love to hear from them.”
State police, however, declined to release further details, including whether they believe Hildenbrandt’s killer was known to her.
“Once we were in a position to safely do that and not damage some of the steps we’re already taking,” Schmidt stated.
Hildenbrandt’s family members last heard from her roughly a month prior to her disappearance. Her final Facebook post was on July 7, the Bennington Banner reported.
The 43-year-old mother, known by close friends as “Red,” used to work in the automotive industry, the paper reported, citing her death certificate. She’s from Ballston Spa, New York, about 60 miles west of where her remains were recovered. Hildenbrandt’s obituary described her as a loyal friend who relished spending time At New York’s Sacandaga Lake. She leaves behind a son.
“Jessica was a good friend, who always was a shoulder to lean on,” her obituary stated.
Anyone with information related to Hildenbrandt’s death is urged to contact Vermont State Police Det. Sgt. Samuel Truex at 802-442-5421 or email@example.com.
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