Eleven years ago, Charlotte Marie Mower crossed the street near 500 East and 3500 South in Salt Lake City and was never seen again.
But thanks to a DNA match, a Southern California sheriff’s office has identified remains found in a desert town as the missing woman.
The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office found a partial skeleton in a drainage pipe underneath Needles, Calif., in February 2003, about two years after Mower was last seen.
The sheriff’s office couldn’t identify her then, and the Salt Lake City police didn’t have a DNA sample of Mower when she disappeared.
The coroner couldn’t determine a cause of death either, said Cindy Bachman, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office. With little to work with, the case went cold.
But recently, Salt Lake City police were able to use new technology to create a DNA profile for Mower where none existed. They took DNA samples from her brothers, sisters and mother and sent them to the University of North Texas so experts could construct a profile for Mower, said Salt Lake City police Detective Cody Lougy.
They finished that process in April and uploaded the profile to a nationwide network — landing a match this month with the San Bernardino County’s case. Now, the sheriff’s office cold-case division will likely take another look at her case, Bachman said.
"Hopefully they’ll have some luck in putting together the pieces of this woman’s disappearance," she said.
Mower, who was bipolar, was 36 years old when she was last seen in October 2001. Besides leaving behind family in the Salt Lake County area, she was married with young children, Lougy said.
"The hardest thing for families is the unknown," Lougy said, adding that the identification of her remains is double-edged: Her family gets closure, but unfortunately she is deceased.
Lougy intends to interview Mower’s family to see why she might have gone to the Southern California desert.
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