DA: ‘Major breakthrough’ made in case of dismembered body found on road near Mass. state forest

WARWICK, Mass. — A “major breakthrough” has been made in a decades-old investigation into the gruesome discovery of a woman’s body on a road near a Massachusetts state forest, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan, First Assistant District Attorney Steven E. Gagne, and representatives of the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit will provide an update Thursday at 10 a.m. on an unsolved homicide in Warwick that dates back to 1989, a spokesperson for the DA’s office said.

A driver traveling in the area of Route 78 near Mount Grace State Forest discovered the human remains after stopping to urinate on June 24, 1989, Gagne said in October 2023 as the DA’s office renewed its effort to crack the cold case, the Greenfield Recorder reported.

“It’s just strange. On the one hand, whoever did this took the time to dismember her, which would not have been a quick thing, yet to just dispose of her remains here, off the side of the road, almost as if in haste,” Gagne said at the time.

In the quiet old-fashioned town, it’s not surprising that murder, especially a decades-old unsolved murder, is still a shock.

“It’s very quiet around here to have something like that happen is very unusual, actually,” said Amy Roberts.

Investigators ultimately decided to reach out to Othram, a Texas corporation known for its success in utilizing forensic genetic genealogy to solve unsolved murders, for help in this case, according to the report.

In October, Prosecutor Steven Gagne told the Greenfield Recorder newspaper, his office was taking a fresh look at the case, and enlisting help from the Texas based Othram Labs in an effort to identify the remains.

Othram has had recent success in identifying the “Granby Girl,” Patricia Ann Tucker, who was found buried under leaves off a road in the town of Granby on Nov. 15, 1978, as well as “The Lady of the Dunes,” Ruth Marie Terry, whose naked and mutilated body was found near Provincetown’s Race Point on July 26, 1974.

Kristen Mittelman, Othram’s Chief Development Officer, previously told Boston 25 News that the company has developed a technique that can develop a DNA sequence from even the most difficult and degraded samples.

“We work with evidence that most people would say DNA can’t be read from,” Mittelman explained. “We identified a murder victim from 1881 and those bones were found outside of a barn. Degradation that happens over time, we seem to be insensitive to that now. We’ve identified a victim that was inside a sewage tank.”

Sullivan’s office didn’t reveal any specific details on what will be discussed during the press conference.

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