A DNA sample and an old photograph from a Burlington County woman have helped officials identify the remains of a girl who was found buried by a lake in San Francisco in 1976.
New Jersey state police said they became involved after a man named William Shinn sought to find his half-sister, eventually reporting her missing to San Francisco police.
According to online missing persons sites, the girl, Judy Gifford, was originally reported missing in San Francisco in 1976, when she was 14.
In October 1976, a man walking a dog saw a hand sticking out from the sand behind a pumping station at San Francisco’s Lake Merced and called police. They uncovered the body of an unidentified girl who had died recently.
New Jersey state police said that after Shinn reported Gifford missing again, San Francisco investigators developed information that linked the remains to the girl and led them to a paternal aunt, Ogee Gifford, who was living in Southampton, Burlington County.
In June, state police Detective Sgt. Erin Micciulla and Detective Jeff Greco visited Gifford at home and collected a DNA sample, as well as photographs of Judy.
In November, the California Department of Justice announced that the body found at Lake Merced was Judy’s.
Besides the DNA match, one of the photographs supplied by Ogee Gifford showed Judy wearing a gold chain with an owl pendant necklace that matched jewelry found on the victim in 1976, state police said.
On Nov. 22, the detectives returned to Ogee’s home to tell her about the identification. She told them she had never changed her phone number in case her niece ever called, state police said.
The investigation into Judy’s death remains open.