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Investigators in Kansas have exhumed the body of a woman found dead in a creek more than 30 years ago under mysterious circumstances in a renewed attempt to determine her identity.
The woman had been discovered in a creek along Interstate-70 in January 1986, barely clothed and with signs that she had been beaten.
The woman was never identified, but was given the nickname “Miss Molly” by authorities. She was quietly laid to rest in the Gypsum Hill Cemetery in Salina — but her case was never far from the minds of those who had tried to identify her.
“It bugged me for 33 years,” former Saline County Sheriff Darrell Wilson told ABC affiliate KAKE.
Investigators are now taking a fresh look at the case after her body was exhumed Monday, July 30, from the cemetery. Officials plan to collect DNA samples — with the help of the Kansas City Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations— to determine who “Miss Molly” is and how she ended up in the creek.
“Back then, DNA wasn’t a thing. We sought a court order hoping the DNA evidence would help us in this process. We got a search warrant to collect it,” said Saline County Sheriff Roger Soldan, according to NBC affiliate KSNW. “Hope to find out who she was ... a lot of missing persons leads.”
A trucker discovered the woman floating face down in Mulberry Creek on Jan. 25, 1986. Authorities said the woman had injuries along the right side of her head, suggesting she may have been beaten shortly before her death.
Investigators believe its likely she was either tossed or pushed over the bridge, falling 30 feet into the water below.
An autopsy would reveal that the woman, estimated to be between 25 and 35 years old, died from drowning, ABC News reports. There was also evidence that the woman had recently given birth.
“Well, it’s a shame all that happened, you know,” Wilson said. “You can conjure up all kinds of things: That somebody kidnapped her and threw her out of a vehicle.”
Lt. Mike Smith said investigators were also struck by the woman’s attire. Although it was the end of January, she was only wearing sweatpants, a bra and knee-high hose, local outlet KWCH reports.
Smith said he has been working the case since 2000.
“Every lead that comes in you follow it up. A lot of hours behind a computer looking at missing peoples,” Smith told KSNW. “Of course, we are playing a little catch-up baseball with this one bit. With modern technology now, there will be a good chance.”
Interest in the case was renewed after investigators were contacted by Interpol about a possible connection between “Miss Molly” and a missing woman from Belgium. The woman disappeared around the same time the body was discovered.
“This will rule in or rule out the one from overseas — the one Interpol was looking at,” Soldan said, according to KSnW. “They have DNA for her, but we didn’t have a DNA sample to match. A lot of her dental records matched but some didn’t.”
The DNA results are expected to be back to the FBI within six to eight months, Soldan said.
Those who have followed the case for years, including Ricky Tebrugge, founder of Kansas Missing and Unsolved, hope the new effort will finally give investigators the information they need to determine just who “Miss Molly” really is.
“She is somebody,” Tebrugge told KSNW. “She’s somebody’s mom, somebody’s daughter. Somebody’s sister, cousin, aunt and she needs to be given her name back so she can be brought back to her family.”
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