Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, say they now know the identity of a woman whose remains were found in the woods in Centreville nearly 30 years ago.
Thanks to advanced DNA testing and forensic genealogy, police have identified the woman as Sharon Kay Abbott Lane, police said in a news release Friday.
The skeletal remains were discovered by landscapers Dec. 6, 1993, at the base of a cedar tree in the area of Sharpsburg Drive in Centreville. Detectives found items scattered around the scene that they believed belonged to the victim, including jewelry, deteriorated clothing, a comb and a barrette. The medical examiner said Lane had been stabbed several times.
The remains were unidentified for years until Fairfax County police turned to advanced genetic testing performed by Othram, a Texas-based lab. The work was supported by anonymous donors on the online fundraising platform DNASolves.
Forensic genealogy — in which investigators use a known DNA sample to build a family tree of possible connections based on DNA profiles from public accessibly genealogy websites — led Othram to a possible family member.
Fairfax County detectives then “combed through the names and made countless calls to track down Sharon’s immediate family,” the police blog post said. With the help of the sheriff’s office in Jackson County, Georgia — about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta — investigators eventually tracked down her brother and her children, and a DNA sample confirmed the match.
Lane was last heard from around 1987 and was believed to be living in Fairfax County. About three to four years later, police said her late father received an phone call in which a woman told him his daughter was dead.
Even though police have identified Lane’s remains, they do not have a suspect in her killing.
“The tragic death of Sharon Kay Abbott Lane is now closer to being solved with the help of advanced DNA testing,” said Maj. Ed O’Carroll of the Major Crimes, Cyber and Forensics Bureau, in a statement. “Our detectives will use this new information to continue to seek justice for the victim in this case. We encourage anyone who may have known Sharon or her associates to contact our detectives.”
Police are asking anyone who knew Sharon Lane to contact detectives.
Tips can be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone — 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), and online at fairfaxcrimesolvers.org. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000.
In late September, Fairfax County police identified remains found in Tysons in 2001 as a teen girl who went missing in 1975, also thanks to work by Othram.