They called her the "Lady of the Chest." It was discovered one Halloween night in 1969 at the bottom of a chest in a wood, behind a bar, in St Petersburg, Tampa Bay, Florida. The young woman was wrapped in plastic sheeting, wore only a pajama top and had been severely hit on the head and strangled with a "bolo tie", a cowboy tie.
That evening, two children had seen two white men take the black trunk out of a pickup truck and throw it into the undergrowth. On the spot, the police had quickly made the macabre discovery... That's all. The young woman had never been identified, nor the perpetrator of her murder.
Missing mother of 5 in Chicago
Until this year. One of these issues is finally resolved, Florida police announce. The martyred body of the chest, the "Lady of the Chest," was Sylvia June Atherton. The 41-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, was a mother of five and had disappeared in Chicago, more than 1,600 miles from where her remains were discovered.
Sylvia Atherton was discovered in a plastic bin hidden in this chest on October 31, 1969 in St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay. (PS Police)
"After 53 years, the Trunk Lady finally has a name," said Mike Kovacsev, deputy chief of police of St Petersburg, quoted by CNN.
As regularly in recent years, it was DNA that made it possible to give an identity to this victim who had been buried under the name of "Jane Doe" at Memorial Park cemetery in St Petersburg. The case had attracted the attention of the media and amateur detectives and had been the subject of television programmes. In vain. Until 2010, the justice demanded the exhumation of his body. Failed: Tooth and bone samples taken for DNA analysis are too degraded.
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It was finally this year that a hair and skin sample taken during Sylvia Atherton's original autopsy reappeared, without the authorities revealing under what circumstances. Analyzed by a laboratory and with the technique of kinship, the samples revealed the identity of the mother.
"It's shocking because it's been so many years," says Syllen Gates, his daughter who lives in California. We had no idea what had happened to him. »
Syllen Gates was 5 years old in 1965 when her mother left Tucson for Chicago with her new husband, Stuart Brown and three of her children. The girl stays with her father, Sylvia's ex-husband and 11-year-old brother. "We thought we would hear from them at one point, but life went on. I was young," said the victim's daughter. Yet the little girl never forgot her mother and had tried to find her and her sisters via genealogy platforms. Without success.
Her husband never reported her missing
Stuart Brown, Sylvia's second husband, died in 1999 in Las Vegas. He never declared his wife missing and never named her in his will, police said.
Police are now looking into who killed Sylvia Atherton. Starting with the search for Kimberly and Anne Brown, and Donna, the three daughters of the mother of the family who lived with her at the time of her disappearance. "They have not been located and they may have additional information regarding the case," said the deputy chief of police of St Petersburg.
Sylvia Atherton and one of her daughters, Donna. (PS Police)
"That's where, amateur detectives come in," encourages the police officer, "we ask for help putting the pieces together."
"We would like to see the case resolved. We'd like to find out who did this," said Syllen Gates, who wants to be reunited with her sisters. "We may not be able to make an arrest," predicts the determined St. Petersburg policeman. But we have to show that we care. »