FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Coconino County Sheriff's Office announced Monday that after 40 years they have been able to officially identify the Jane Doe from the "Valentine Sally" case.
Valentine Sally was one of the oldest unsolved "Jane Doe" cases in Arizona. A young woman was found dead on the side of a northern Arizona highway by a Arizona Department of Public Safety officer decades ago on Valentine's Day, and nobody knew who she was until now.
Through funding from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), CCSO was able to send DNA samples to a private vendor testing lab to complete a familial DNA search for her relatives, according to a press release. The testing led them to find family members in the St. Louis area.
"It was found that the family members had a sibling who ran away from home around Christmas time in 1981. Detectives were able to retrieve DNA samples from relatives, which matched the DNA profile from “Valentine Sally.”
CCSO announced on Monday morning that Valentine Sally has been identified as 17-year-old Carolyn Eaton.
During CCSO's investigation with the new information, they were able to work with the St. Louis Police Department Missing Persons detectives along with the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department in Missouri where Carolyn lived before she ran away around the time of Christmas 1981 and the new year.
For one of the last persons to see Eaton alive all those years ago, Patty Wilkins can now have some peace.
“Well, I’m going to cry. It’s like one of my girls,” said Wilkins. “It’s only been me and her. Now she’s got a family. Isn’t that great? It doesn’t get any better.”
Wilkins believes she saw Eaton alive at her family's truck stop on or around February 2 in 1982. Eaton's body was found just a mile up the road on February 14. Detectives believe she was dead for about two weeks before she was found.
“We’ve got a name and I’m no longer in charge of her,” said Wilkins. “I love you and I’m glad you’re going home.”
The Eaton family released a statement via CCSO:
Want to Thank You & Detective Short, and the countless men & women who have worked tirelessly for 39 years on Carolyn & our family’s behalf! Carolyn is much loved and profoundly grieved by all of us that knew her during her short time on earth, and know now that she is safely home in Heaven with our parents... We as a family need to absorb this news, and would ask that those who demonstrated compassion and empathy for a young teen they never met, accept that our family is requesting privacy as we move through the healing process.
CCSO says they are working to further investigate the case with their cold case department.
“We didn’t want to give you false hope that we were going to make a positive ID,” said Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll, on why his office wouldn’t do an interview with us or give us details several weeks ago when we were working on our investigation. “She had run away in December and she was a troubled kid. She had some issues.”
So far, there are no suspects but the case remains as a homicide.
“We have evidence and leads that we are currently following that we’re not able to share at this point,” said Sheriff Driscoll. “We have looked at a lot of possible suspects in this even before she was identified, and there are a number of serial killers out there.”