ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (TCD) — Police have recently identified a 41-year-old cold case victim known as the “Trunk Lady,” who was found dead in a field 53 years ago.
In a May 30 press conference, St. Petersburg Assistant Police Chief Michael Kovacsev said that on Oct. 31, 1969, two juveniles saw two men drive to the 4200 block of 32nd Street in a pickup truck and drop a black trunk in the middle of the field. St. Petersburg Police arrived at the location and discovered a deceased female wrapped in plastic when they opened the trunk.
The victim had suffered clear head wounds and had been strangled with a “man’s Western-style bolo tie.”
Kovacsev said officials at the time searched for matching missing persons reports and contacted other law enforcement agencies, but nothing came to fruition. The victim was buried as Jane Doe in a local cemetery.
Investigators exhumed the woman’s body in 2010 and tried to gather DNA from her remains, but they were too degraded.
In late 2022 and early 2023, police reopened the case again. Detectives reportedly noticed a section of the victim’s hair that had not been tested, and it was sent to a private lab. Police were then able to create a DNA profile, and Othram ran it through a DNA genealogy database, where they were able to connect with the victim’s daughter.
Results came back and St. Petersburg Police were able to identify “Trunk Lady” Jane Doe as 41-year-old Sylvia June Atherton. She lived in Tucson, Arizona, but then left with her husband and three children and moved to Chicago. Two of Atherton’s other children from a previous marriage stayed in Tucson with their father. They never saw her again.
Atherton allegedly left two of her children with her previous husband in Chicago and was never seen by her children again. Her husband died in 1999 but never reported her missing or mentioned her in court records.
Atherton owned the trunk she was found in.
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