A body discovered in 1979 near the current bustling intersection of the Las Vegas Strip has been identified as Gwenn Marie Story, a teenager from Ohio who had embarked on a quest to find her biological father, authorities revealed on Tuesday.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department confirmed the identity of the previously unknown victim, who had been known as “Sahara Sue Doe” for 44 years, using advancements in DNA testing.
In August 1979, a man stumbled upon the body in a vacant lot near the northern edge of the Las Vegas Strip. The victim had wavy hair and painted red fingernails and toenails.
Today, the Strat Hotel stands prominently near that intersection, alongside the Sahara hotel-casino.
Authorities determined that the victim had died within 24 hours before her discovery, marking the case as a homicide in a database maintained by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
However, her identity remained a mystery until a private DNA testing laboratory partnered with investigators last September. Othram, a specialist in forensic genealogy analysis, successfully built a comprehensive DNA profile and identified possible relatives who confirmed the victim’s true identity as Gwenn Marie Story.
According to Story’s relatives, she left her Cincinnati home in the summer of 1979 in search of her father in California, accompanied by two male friends. Her family lost contact with her, and when the friends returned to Cincinnati in August of that year, they informed Story’s family that they had left her in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Police Department is now focusing its investigation on these two friends and the circumstances surrounding Gwenn Marie Story’s death near the Las Vegas Strip.
This breakthrough is a testament to the advancements in genetic testing, leading to more identifications and arrests in long-unsolved cases, including missing persons, homicides, and sexual assault cases. Earlier this year, Othram aided Nevada State Police in identifying another long-unknown victim, Florence Charleston, who went missing from Ohio 45 years ago, emphasizing the power of DNA analysis in resolving cold cases.