Valentine Sally image courtesy National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Nearly 40 years after a body of a girl was found on Valentine's Day off a northern Arizona highway, she has been confirmed by police to be a teenage runaway from St. Louis.
Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll announced Monday that DNA confirms the victim is 17-year-old Carolyn Eaton.
The decades-old cold case began when an Arizona state trooper spotted her body on Feb. 14, 1982 off Interstate 40 just west of Williams.
Because of the day she was found, the unidentified girl was dubbed “Valentine Sally” by authorities.
According to Coconino County sheriff's officials, detectives exhausted all possible leads over the years but were unable to determine the girl's identity.
Investigators recently hired a private company to process DNA from the body for entry into online databases. The sheriff's office says this led to the discovery of possible familial DNA matches.
Detectives in Arizona traveled to St. Louis to interview the potential relatives. These possible family members told police they had a sibling who ran away in December 1981.
From there, detectives collected new DNA samples which led to positive confirmation.
Driscoll says Eaton's death is a homicide. Detectives will now move on to looking for suspects. No details were given about her cause of death.