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DNA and investigative work help identify murder victim in Connecticut nearly 50 years later

Nearly 50 years after the skeletal remains of two homicide victims were found in a shallow grave, one of the victims was finally identified, Connecticut State Police announced Wednesday.

Linda Sue Childers was one of two people fatally shot in a double homicide on December 31, 1970, according to the release. Police say they found the remains in Ledyard, Connecticut, in 1974, almost three-and-a-half years after the two were murdered.

For decades, there were no DNA matches and the woman’s identity remained a mystery.

Investigators had a hard time verifying her identify because Childers used an alias that was never verified, state police said.

Two men, Richard DeFreitas and Donald Brant, were arrested and convicted of the crimes shortly after the bodies were recovered, police say. Those men are now dead, state police said.

Digging through clues to discover her identity

After the bodies were discovered, police found clothes and jewelry with Childers’ remains, including a tan leather “wet look” vest, a gold or tan sweater, a brown tweed skirt and a pair of brown granny boots, state police said.

She also was wearing a pendant and rings, according to state police. A class ring had the letters J.H.S.N. monogrammed, the initials I.L.N. and the date 1917 engraved inside.

This sketch was used to help identify the murdered woman in 1974, a few years after skeletal remains of two victims were found in a shallow grave in Ledyard, Connecticut. - Pedro Muniz
This sketch was used to help identify the murdered woman in 1974, a few years after skeletal remains of two victims were found in a shallow grave in Ledyard, Connecticut. - Pedro Muniz

Her case data, dental X-rays and description of her were uploaded to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System in 2011, state police said. Her data was uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System in 2012.

DNA samples were sent to a private genetic genealogy company working with the state in July 2022. Officials later collaborated on the investigation to reopen the case, according to the release.

Advancements in forensic science technology and the use of forensic investigative genetic genealogy, which combines DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research, have allowed more DNA breakthroughs with solving cases.

In January 2024, DNA results helped identify Childers’ sister and later, Childers’ daughter, state police said. DNA from the daughter confirmed Childers’ identity in February 2024, according to the release.

“Conversations with the family confirmed her whereabouts in the northeast throughout the years before her disappearance,” the release states. “It is gratifying to have helped identify Linda and, most importantly, give her family some answers.”

The other victim was previously identified as Gustavous Lee Carmichael, a convicted serial bank robber who once escaped from federal custody, state police told CNN.

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