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Woman found slain 38 years ago in California identified with DNA testing

Tracing family trees to catch killers
Inside the genetic genealogy being used to solve crimes 13:49

A woman's remains have been identified almost four decades after she was found dead down an embankment in Southern California, authorities announced this week. 

The remains belonged to Maria Pilar Del Gadillo Carrillo, who had immigrated to the United States from Yahualica, in Mexico's Jalisco state, in early 1986, the San Diego County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. Carrillo was 43 years old when she was killed. Although the specific circumstances surrounding her death continue to remain mysterious, a medical examiner determined officially that Carrillo had been murdered soon after the body was discovered.

Carrillo's remains were initially found down an embankment along a stretch of California State Route 67, near Poway Road in San Diego County, on Aug. 3, 1986, the sheriff's office said. Homicide detectives immediately opened an investigation when they arrived at the scene, and learned that the then-unknown victim had suffered traumatic injuries suggesting foul play.

Advanced DNA testing and genetic genealogy allowed San Diego authorities to identify a murder victim's remains as Maria Pilar Del Gadillo Carrillo in February 2024, almost four decades after her death. San Diego County Sheriff's Office

Even after the medical examiner ruled her manner of death as homicide, investigators were unable to develop many leads and the case subsequently went cold. Additional leads were not discovered despite the case being reviewed intermittently by detectives over the years that followed.

Finally, in February 2022, homicide detectives and analysts with the sheriff's office in San Diego found a break in the case. They used advanced DNA testing and investigative genetic geology to reexamine the body and, around two years later, ultimately confirmed the unidentified victim as Carrillo. An investigation has been reopened in hopes of learning more about what happened to her.

Authorities said that Carrillo's family has been contacted and notified about their ongoing probe into her murder. At this point, the sheriff's office said that detectives are trying to establish her movements around the San Diego area leading up to her death. The office has asked anyone who knew Carrillo to reach out to their homicide unit by calling 858-285-6330 or 858-565-5200. Anonymous tips can also be reported through the local Crime Stoppers line.

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