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Man who helped ID former neighbor's remains via cold case playing cards hopes someone will come forward with more info

A missing Minnesotan woman's remains were identified after 20 years
Missing Minnesotan woman's remains identified after 20 years 03:18

MINNEAPOLIS — A missing Minnesota woman's remains went unidentified for 20 years. But thanks to a unique pack of playing cards, that mystery is over. For the first time, WCCO spoke with the curious neighbor who helped police begin to crack this cold case.

"We really appreciate your work," BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said.

Fourty-one years after Deana Patnode disappeared, Evans presented her former neighbor Mike Doherty with a certificate of thanks.

"I'm glad there was some closure," Doherty said.

Patnode was 23 when she was last seen leaving a bar in South St. Paul in October of 1982. Remains found 80 miles away along Highway 61 in Wabasha County seven years later wouldn't be identified until 2009. 

"There was a recreation made out of clay at that time, trying to create a picture of her so the community could identify her. Fast forward to 2008, the BCA launched a cold case playing cards initiative, where we put her picture out on a card and we distributed those cards out across the state of Minnesota — and in our correctional institutions — so that someone may come forward with information. And in this case, someone did," Evans said.

That someone was Doherty.

"I was just a boy. My aunt had a friend named Deana Patnode," Doherty said.

She lived a few houses down from Doherty's grandmother.

"I'd always wondered, 'What happened to Deana, what happened to Deana?' My family was always talking about, 'I wonder if they found Deana,'" Doherty said.

Doherty never saw the actual playing cards until just recently, but happened to come across them online.

"One of the cards I came across had a likeness to Deana, or at least how I remembered her," Doherty said.

The card said she may have walked with a limp. That was the detail that made Doherty reach out with information.  His aunt shared she had fallen off a motorcycle and had surgery on her leg.

"It was probably six months later they told me they went down to Iowa and got a hair sample from her sister, and got a family match," Doherty said.

WCCO was there in 2009 when Patnode's sister spoke about finding some closure.

"We never thought we'd hear anything. it's phenomenal. We are glad she got to be one of the playing cards, otherwise she wouldn't be identified. I know that," Patnode's sister said.

Evans says knowing who the person is, is often the first step in an investigation.

"Then we can start to track back who that person was, who might have seen them on the night of their disappearance, prior to them being deceased," Evans said.

And while her identity is solved, what happened to Patnode remains a mystery.

"A lot of our leads have come up dry in this particular case. This is where we really need the public's help to understand anything big or small," Evans said.

"I'd be very curious to see the case, I'd be happy to see it solved. Maybe there's someone out there based on this interview or based on the cards, based on my story, maybe there's someone that can contribute to the story, if not more," Doherty said.

If you remember anything about Deana Patnode's disappearance or know what happened to her, investigators want to hear from you.

Here's a look at other BCA cold cases.

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