LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – For 44 years, a woman was known as Sahara Sue Doe.
A name connected to where her body was found. According to Metro Police, in August of 1979, a man walking along Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Blvd found a body in the dirt. Her death was ruled as a homicide by the Clark County Coroner’s office and it was a never-ending task to find out who this woman was.
“Most cases were getting consumed without an answer, and so people were losing their chance to ever get justice to ever get their identity back,” said Dr. Kristen Mittelman, the Chief Development Officer for Othram lab.
Metro Police contacted Othram for help as it is a lab specifically focused on cold cases.
This case fell into Dr. Mittelman’s hands as she used DNA and other forensics to help crack the four-decade-old mystery.
“What you need to be able to see is a fifth cousin or a sixth cousin and a fourth cousin and another fourth cousin, what that allows you to do is find the most common ancestor and that’s what our genealogy team does here is pull down that family tree until you get to a specific generation,” Dr. Mittelman said.
Though they were getting closer, Dr. Mittleman said the DNA was difficult to work with.
“What was difficult about it was the way her body was left and all the non-human DNA component that was there, that had to be filtered out,” Dr. Mittelman said.
She later uncovered that Sahara Sue Doe was, in fact, 19-year-old Gwenn Marie Story.
Police reached out to the family and confirmed Story had left Cincinnati, OH with two male friends to head to California. Those two friends returned to Ohio without her and said Story was left in Las Vegas with family.
Story was never heard from again.
“When we bring answers, they are usually not good answers it means that the person is deceased and murdered somehow,” Dr. Mittelman said.
However, those answers are necessary and solving these cases comes at a hefty price of $7,500.
“It is a lot of emotions at once,” Lydia Ansel said
Ansel and her husband Justin Woo help fund many cold cases for Othram with the help of their non-profit Vegas Justice League.
“You just start thinking of all the things that the family must be feeling of finally getting some answers, there’s never truly closure but at least you know that there’s some sort of answer and peace from that,” Ansel said.
Though Story was able to get her identity back years after she died, Metro Police still urge anyone who might know any information about this case, or the two males Story traveled with back in 1979, to call Las Vegas police.
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