Pittsburgh woman's remains identified 12 years after being found

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The mummified remains of a woman found 12 years ago in an abandoned railroad tunnel in Homestead have been identified with the help of DNA evidence, the Allegheny County medical examiner's office announced today.

The DNA of the woman now known as Amanda S. Myers, 22, of Pittsburgh, matched the hereditary material her family provided to Pittsburgh police.

Until today, Ms. Myers was known only as 00-4395.

What the medical examiner's office has identified as Ms. Myers' body was found in October 2000 and the cause of her death was undetermined.

Her remains, and those of two other women, were stored in freezer bags at Allegheny County morgue Downtown until they were buried in 2009 at Woodruff Memorial Park in North Strabane.

Allegheny County medical examiner Karl Williams said his team extracts DNA in every case and usually retains the molecules in bone form for unidentified people.

Before the burial, Dr. Williams saved DNA information and submitted it as part of the women's profiles -- including their dental records and artists' renderings of their faces -- to a national database for the missing and unidentified, in hopes they could one day make a match.

The DNA obtained from Ms. Myers' family was submitted to the same system by Pittsburgh police.

"It was not until 2009 that we really had a major databank that we could send this material to," Dr. Williams said.

DNA can be sent to the FBI, he noted, but with nothing to compare it to, they can't make an identification.

Investigators over the years have made significant efforts to identify the women, including studying their remains, chasing leads and seeking information from Crime Stoppers.

Dr. Williams attributed the identification to the database, funded by a federal grant.

"It's a fascinating story about the ability to identify people nationally," Dr. Williams said.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede.


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