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College student can help governments link to the Ohio teen who vanished in 1974

A photo of Linda Pagano and the artist Carl Koppelman came up with are based on a photograph of unidentified remains in a police file.

(Akron Police/Carl Koppelman)

A college student research has helped to solve a 44-year-old missing persons case involving a 17-year-old girl in Ohio.

Christina Scates quest to unlock the mystery led authorities to exhume a body in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Cleveland’s Potter’s Field, WEWS-TV Thursday reported. On 12 July, the authorities announced that the remains belonged to Linda Pagano who disappeared nearly 44 years ago after a quarrel with her stepfather in Strongsville, Ohio. The police said she was murdered.

“We finally have the victim of that tragedy,” Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson said. He said DNA picked up the identification.

Three boys found the remains in February 1975 along the banks of the Ricky River in Strongsville, to the station. Pagano was reported missing five months earlier. An autopsy determined the remains were of a woman in her early 20s who had died from a shotgun wound to the head.

Scates, who is also of Strongsville, told the station that her quest began after they came across an entrance to a tomb in the cemetery, that said: “unknown white bones.”

“It was in the back of my mind for a few months, every day, to think that this is not right. This is not how things should be,” Scates told the station. “That is the reason why I looked into it further than I originally had.”

According to the station, she obtained the case file from the police and uploaded the documents on Reddit and Websleuths in a search for answers.

At one point, Carl Koppelman, a forensic artist in California, contacted her and used a photo in the file to create a sketch, which he posted on Facebook.

He also mentioned the unidentified remains to Gilson’s office.

“He passively asked about the matter, and she had no idea, so then that ended with her being added into the database for missing persons,” she said.

In 2016, an Akron police detective working on Linda’s missing persons case recorded in the database and saw that there is a possible match. Her DNA was eventually adapted to her brothers and sisters’.

Scates told WEWS she learned of the identification on a Wednesday evening of one of Linda’s family. She said that she choked up in the news.

“I was perfectly in order to bring the case of interest, back to the case,” she said.

The police said that the stepfather was a person of interest but not a suspect.

Linda was his favorite before she disappeared, Linda’s brother Michael Pagano said of the stepfather.

He was with Gilson when the identification was announced.

“I thought this day would never come, so I thought I would die,” he said. “I’m surprised about all of this came to light, as it has done.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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