Victim identified in Southern California homicide case, 41 years after her remains were found

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A victim whose skull was found by children in a Southern California city in 1983 has been identified 41 years after her remains were first discovered, authorities said.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department identified the victim Friday as Maritza Glean Grimmett, a Panamanian native who moved to the U.S. in the late 1970s. Grimmett was 20 years old at the time of her disappearance, authorities said in a news release. The investigation involved a DNA analysis using Grimmett’s remains that helped investigators identify relatives.

After children discovered Grimmett’s skull while playing in an area that is now part of Lake Forest, a city about 43 miles (69 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, about 70% of her remains were excavated from the ground. In the decades that followed, authorities were not able to identify the victim.

In 2022, a DNA sample from Grimmett’s remains was sent to Othram Laboratories, a forensics group based in Texas, the sheriff’s department said. A missing persons program within the U.S. Department of Justice funded the DNA extraction and testing. Authorities later discovered “a direct family line” for Grimmett and contacted one of her distant relatives in 2023, they said.

The relative recommended the findings of the forensics investigation be posted to a Facebook group focused on women who went missing in the 1970s and 1980s, the sheriff’s department said. A month after the findings were posted, a woman reached out to investigators and said she believed she was the victim’s missing mother.

Relatives later submitted DNA samples to authorities, who identified the victim. The investigation is ongoing.

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