Police in Virginia identified a 17-year-old girl who went missing nearly 50 years ago with the help of DNA testing, a scientific tool that has helped law enforcement solve dozens of cold case murders in recent years.
Patricia Agnes Gildawie, also known as "Choubi," disappeared on Feb. 8, 1975, in Fairfax, Virginia, according to a statement from the Fairfax County Police Department. Her remains and some clothing were found behind an apartment complex in McLean by a construction crew in September 2001.
At the time, an initial review said the skeletal remains "were like that of an African American female in her late teens to early 20s," the release states. A medical examiner said the woman had died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Cold case detectives investigating the case worked with Othram, a Texas-based company that specializes in the use of forensic genealogy to solve cold case murders and disappearances. Through advanced DNA testing, authorities were able to find Gildawie's half-sister, Veronique Duperly.
Authorities also learned that at the time of Gildawie's disappearance, she was dating an older man. Police have not been able to identify him but said they know the man worked at an upholstery store in Vienna.
Duperly told NBC Washington that the last time she saw her sister, she was driving a white Cadillac Eldorado with red interior that Gildawie’s boyfriend loaned her. Duperly said her sister also had bruises on her.
"Bruises on her upper arms, her shoulders, and the back of her legs," Duperly told the news station. "I said, 'Well, why are you so black and blue?' She said, 'I fall a lot.' I said, 'No, you don’t.'"
"Identifying this young woman solves a mystery that has been more than 47 years in the making," said Ed O’Carroll, Bureau Commander of Major Crimes and Cyber and Forensics, in a statement.
"Our community should take comfort in knowing that our detectives never stop working these cases. Advancements in technology have given my Cold Case detectives an opportunity to pursue fresh leads and bring some relief to families that have been long suffering with the unknown."
Gildawie was born in France and moved to the United States when she was eight months old, Fairfax police said. In the early 1970s, she moved to Fairfax.
Detectives are continuing to investigate the case and asked that anyone with information contact Fairfax County Crime Solvers.