Body ID’d as Ohio Teen Missing Since 1974, Reddit Sleuthing Helped Crack Case

CLEVELAND, OH — DNA testing has identified human remains discovered in 1975 as being those of an Akron teen who disappeared the previous year.

After four decades of mystery surrounding both the body and the missing teen — which may have been compounded by a simple clerical error — a post on Reddit kicked off the process that finally led to the identification.

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Linda Pagano was 17 in September 1974, when she reportedly had an argument with her stepfather about her coming home late that led to him throwing the teen out of the house. After that, Linda was never seen or heard from again.

In February 1975, a partially decomposed skeleton washed up on a riverbank in Ohio’s Mill Stream Run Reservation. Examiners determined that the remains belonged to a woman in her late teens or early 20s and ruled the death a homicide.

No one, however, could conclusively connect Linda Pagano to that body. As a result, the unknown female was buried in a pauper’s grave in May 1975 and, from there, essentially forgotten.

A break only occurred 40 years later, when genealogy researcher Christina Scates came across a reference to “unknown white female bones” in Ohio and posted a about it on Reddit.

Related: Body Of Missing UPenn Student, Blaze Bernstein, Found; Police Investigate Homicide

Forensic artist Carl Koppelman saw the post, and using a file photo of the woman’s partially exposed skull, he constructed an image of what she may have looked like and posted it online.

Linda Pagano in 1974 and Carl Koppelman’s forensic recreation image from 2015 [Ohio Attorney General’s Office]

Still, no information came forth until Cuyahoga County officials contacted Koppelman about another case. In passing, Koppelman asked the county reps about the unknown female bones to which he says they responded, “What bones?”

According to reports, Cuyahoga County looked again and discovered that a single misspelled word prevented Linda Pagano from being added to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS).

Related: Who Killed Christine Lott? Body Of Missing Idaho Woman Found After 12 Years

Officials corrected the mistake immediately, then exhumed the skeletal remains and ordered DNA testing. In short order, examiners identified the body as belonging to Linda Pagano.

Linda’s family received the news this past Tuesday. Mike Pagano, Linda’s brother, expressed gratitude mixed with sadness, saying:

“I pretty much figured it was her. I wasn’t really surprised. Relieved. It’s basically over, and we get some closure.”

Mike also said the family was planning a proper funeral for Linda and deemed the DNA discovery and the seemingly random events that led to it a “miracle.”

While DNA finally did prove that it was Linda Pagano who was murdered back in 1975, how it happened and who did it remains a mystery. The investigation continues anew, now with fresh inspiration.

Read more:
ABC Cleveland
Akron Beacon-Journal
Inside Edition

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Main image: Linda Pagano [Ohio Attorney General’s Office]