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Woman found dead 45 years ago in Mississippi identified as young mother: "How do we find out who did this?"

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The body of a woman found in 1978 that was dumped at an illegal landfill in Mississippi's Rankin County has been identified, investigators said.

Using DNA testing on the remains of the body, the Rankin County Coroner's Office positively identified the victim as Tonya Lea Wills Mullins, who was 22 years old when she disappeared, according to a Thursday news release from DNASolves, a database that helps law enforcement solve cold cases.

Rankin County Coroner David Ruth and his deputy, Heather Smith, found renewed interest in the 1978 Jane Doe case after Ohio officials contacted them about a similar unsolved case, The Clarion Ledger reported.

"As a result, Ruth filed a petition with the courts to exhume the victim's body," the statement said. "After considering the evidence, Judge Dewey Arthur approved the exhumation."

After Ruth collected and shipped the forensic evidence to a lab, experts were able to get a DNA extraction that lead to the victim's identity.

Meanwhile, authorities are continuing to investigate Mullins' death to determine what happened to her, the release said.

"We are very appreciative to everyone that helped shepherd this case from the original crime scene to the exhumation, DNA testing, and investigative process that finally led to the restoration of Tonya's identity," according to the release.

Mullins, who was from Texas, was married and had two children at the time of her death, according to DNASolves.

Her two daughters, Tammi and Christie, were just toddlers when their mother disappeared. Now 49 and 47, they told WLBT they will travel from Texas to Mississippi to attend a memorial service for their mother.

"I think there's different trauma; there's trauma that, you know, 'Our mom just left all these years and basically didn't want us', and now there's the, 'Oh no, that's not even true. You know? She was murdered,'" Tammi Mullins told WLBT. "And so now it's a new piece of the puzzle. And so now it's like, Okay, how do we find this person? How do we find out who did this?"

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