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Police use advanced DNA testing to identify body of teenager who disappeared in 1975

Could your DNA help solve a cold case?
Could your DNA help solve a cold case? 05:01

The remains of a Virginia teenager who disappeared nearly 50 years ago have now been identified, police announced Monday. Authorities involved in the longstanding cold case credited advanced DNA tests and "forensic-grade" genome sequencing for the recent discovery, which linked a set of previously anonymous remains to Patricia Agnes Gildawie, who was also called "Choubi."

Gildawie went missing in 1975, and was last seen on Feb. 8 of that year, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release confirming her identity. She was 17 at the time and dating an older man who worked at an upholstery store, according to the release. 

Gildawie's half-sister assisted the latter stages of the police investigation and shared some details about her sibling's life, including her birth place in France in 1958 and subsequent move to the U.S. at around eight months old. When she disappeared, Gildawie lived in Fairfax and was known to drive a Cadillac Eldorado with a red interior, police said. Detectives are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding her death with additional help from Gildawie's family members.

Although few details about her disappearance are clear, police say that the teenager's remains were initially discovered behind an apartment complex, where a construction crew was working in the fall of 2001. Clothing items were found with the skeletal remains, according to police. A medical examiner and anthropologist's joint review later determined that a gunshot wound to the head caused Gildawie's death. 

Patricia Agnes Gildawie
Detectives in Fairfax County, Virginia, have identified the remains of Patricia Agnes Gildawie, who went missing in 1975. Fairfax County Police Department

Fairfax County's cold case detectives were unable to identify the remains found in 2001 until this year, when they partnered with Othram, Inc., a forensic genealogy corporation that specializes in disappearances and unsolved murders. The genome tests led detectives to Gildawie's half-sister.

"Identifying this young woman solves a mystery that has been more than 47 years in the making," said Ed O'Carroll, the bureau commander of major crimes and cyber and forensics at the Fairfax County police department, in a statement. 

"Our community should take comfort in knowing that our detectives never stop working these cases," the statement continued. "Advancements in technology have given my Cold Case detectives an opportunity to pursue fresh leads and bring some relief to families that have been long suffering with the unknown."

As the investigation continues, authorities are asking anyone with information about Gildawie's death or disappearance to report it to Fairfax County Crime Solvers. They are offering rewards of up to $1,000 for anonymous tips.

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