Roadside strangling victim is finally identified 33 years on thanks to DNA ... trends now
A strangling victim whose body was found dumped by a North Carolina freeway 33 years ago has finally been identified thanks to a breakthrough in DNA analysis.
Lisa Coburn Kesler's remains were discovered in September 1990 on the the side of I-40 East in Orange County. At the time her identity was unknown.
DNA was taken from her badly-decomposed body but at the time this data could only confirm someone's identity - it couldn't be used to identify an unknown person.
But in 2020, the State Bureau of Investigation took over the case and recruited a forensic genealogist who was able to use online databases to track down Kesler's family.
Now cops hope that they can catch her killer.
Lisa Coburn Kesler was around 20 years old when she was strangled and left on the side of a highway in Orange County, North Carolina
Her decomposed body was discovered by road crews and she was listed as Jane Doe on the medical examiner's certificate of death
Kesler's body was found near the exit by New Church Hope Rd off Interstate 40 East
She was wearing a pink t-shirt with white bunny graphics and various pieces of jewelry
At the time, DNA could not be used to identify an unknown person, so the case went cold
In the original medical examiner's certificate, Coburn was named as 'Unidentified White Female' and was estimated to be around 20 years old at the time of her death.
She is believed to have been strangled around one week before her body was ftound.
Police followed hundreds of leads that ultimately went nowhere, but as new technology became available over the years, investigators took full advantage.
They created a bust of the victim by applying forensic facial reconstruction techniques to a model of her skull. Later, they created a digital illustration and circulated the image on social media.
However, DNA analysis was still a developing field and the technology couldn't easily be used to crack the case.
'Throughout the decades, some of our finest investigators kept plugging away,' Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said.
When investigators can't close a case, he said, 'it gets under your skin. You set the file aside for a while, but you keep coming back to it.
'Investigators also monitor new techniques and technologies in the field, which is what eventually led to the breakthrough in Ms. Kesler’s case.'
Investigator Dylan Hendricks took over the case in June 2020, assisted by agents with the State Bureau of Investigation.
He sent a degraded hair fragment to Astrea Forensics, a biotechnology company that helps law enforcement identify human remains.