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Deputies hope technology will solve 1977 Berkeley County cold case

Crews found incomplete skeletal remains of an unidentified woman in a Goose Creek field on Oct....
Crews found incomplete skeletal remains of an unidentified woman in a Goose Creek field on Oct. 4, 1977. A forensic study of the woman's skull helped investigators create this image of how she may have appeared before she disappeared.(NAMUS)
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 1:27 PM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2022 at 4:43 AM EDT
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MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCSC) - It has been nearly 45 years since a worker clearing brush in a Goose Creek field discovered the skeletal remains of a woman.

For almost 45 years, the bones have remained unidentified. But Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis announced Wednesday that a technological advancement might finally help them identify her and learn how her remains ended up there.

It was on Oct. 4, 1977, as work was underway at the site previously known as Tidewater Builders off Highway 52 on what is now Sawgrass Avenue.

Then-Berkeley County Coroner George Murray responded to the scene and recovered the remains. He would transfer them to MUSC for analysis.

Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis, left, and Coroner George Oliver talked to reporters...
Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis, left, and Coroner George Oliver talked to reporters Wednesday about the latest information on unclaimed remains discovered in Goose Creek in 1977.(Berkeley County Sheriff's Office)

No one came forward to report someone missing or tried to claim those remains,” Lewis said.

The skeletal remains were believed to be that of a Black woman, ranging in age from 20 to 75 years old and standing between 5-feet, 2-inches and 5-feet, 8-inches tall, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a federal clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified and unclaimed person cases.

For more than two decades, the case stalled. On June 8, 2020, the remains were transferred to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office where a death investigation was relaunched with two goals in mind: identifying the woman and determining whether a death was involved.

“So you’re thinking back to 1977, a lot of things have changed,” Lewis said.

In what might seem like a script from an episode of true-crime series “The Forensic Files,” the woman’s remains were recently sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification Forensic Anthropology for further analysis.

The new examination updated some details about the woman’s possible age and height, suggesting that she was of medium build, between the ages of 30 and 60, and with a height of between 5-feet, 4-inches and 5-feet, 6-inches.A forensic imaging specialist at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in Florida was able to produce a facial reconstruction to produce an image that might show how she would have looked at the time she disappeared.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department in Florida provided Berkeley County investigators...
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department in Florida provided Berkeley County investigators with a forensic facial reconstruction that might show how she would have looked at the time she disappeared.(Berkeley County Sheriff's Office)

“We are asking the public to please take a look at these photographs of the facial reconstruction to see if you might know who this individual could be,” Lewis said. “We would like to get in contact with the next of kin of this victim so they can have their remains laid to rest, properly.”

From facial features of the skull and signs of poor dental care, forensic anthropologists told investigators the woman may have ancestry ties to another country, such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or the Bahamas, Lewis said.

Lewis said they have entered what they have into a DNA database called CONUS and have also begun looking at forensic genealogy.

“There’s been some other cases that genealogy, DNA, has solved, some missing persons, and located lost and unknown family members,” Lewis said.

He said they hope the new pieces of information may jog someone’s memory about mentions of someone having disappeared around the time.

“There is someone somewhere who has missed this person and we would like to talk to them. We would like to try to learn more about where they were back in 1977 and how we may help close this case out for somebody that’s this missing someone,” Lewis said. “We don’t know what happened. We don’t know how the remains got there. We just don’t know.”

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Detective John Plitsch at the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office at 843-719-4465.

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