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California detectives searching for answers in a cold case from 1971 caught a break this month after DNA from a skull found on the side of the road in 1986 was linked to a woman who went missing 52 years ago.
The Placer County Sheriff’s Office said Donna Lass was reported as a missing person in 1971 by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
At the time, all investigative leads from the case were exhausted, and the case sat unresolved.
Then in 1986, members of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office discovered a skull off of Highway 20 near Interstate 80, though there was no other evidence found nearby.
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Donna Lass went missing in 1971 and through recent DNA advancements, a skull found on the side of the road in California in 1986 was identified as belonging to her. (Placer County Sheriffs Office)
The skull was handed over to the county coroner’s office to be preserved until further advancements in forensics could possibly help identify the remains.
The sheriff’s office said it recently created a cold case team with the Placer County District Attorney’s office, dedicating additional resources to help bring unsolved missing persons and suspicious death cases to a close.
The new team sent the skull to the California Department of Justice with hopes that advancements in DNA technology could help identify its source.
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DNA helped crack the 1971 disappearance of Donna Lass. Her skull was recently positively identified by the technology, but it is still unclear how she died. (iStock)
According to the sheriff’s office, the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services matched DNA taken from the skull with the DNA of a member of Lass’s family, which was obtained by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department during the missing person’s case investigation.
The match allowed investigators to identify the skull as the remains of Lass.
Last week, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department notified Lass’s family that she had been found.
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“We are extremely grateful that this team effort was able to bring closure to the Lass family and are hopeful that cold case detectives can continue to make advances in these cases,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release.
Although Lass has been found, the case remains open as investigators vow to investigate future leads on the matter. It is still unclear how Lass died.
Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to contact the South Lake Tahoe Police Department Detective Division at [email protected].
Greg Wehner is a breaking news reporter for Fox News Digital.
Story tips and can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter @GregWehner.