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Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office, Akron Police Department, and Cleveland Metroparks Rangers Positively Identify Akron Teen Missing Since 1974

7/12/2018


Collaboration and DNA help bring closure to 44-year old case

Department LogosCLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas P. Gilson, in collaboration with the Akron Police Department, and Cleveland Metroparks Rangers, announced Linda Pagano – an Akron teenager missing since 1974 – has been positively identified.

“It is very gratifying to bring closure to this part of the investigation. We at the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office, gratefully acknowledge the many individuals, past and present, who participated in this investigation.” said Dr. Gilson. “We never stop trying to identify those people who pass through this office without a name. On a personal level, this work was especially satisfying as this case was originally examined by my teacher and mentor, Dr. Charles Hirsch, who worked in Cuyahoga County before becoming the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City.”

Investigation Timeline: 
  • February 5, 1975:  Unidentified remains found in Strongsville, OH.
  • February 12, 1975: Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office performs skull/dental examination; determines bones belonged to a white woman in her early 20s. Case is ruled a homicide.
  • May 15, 1975: Unidentified remains buried at Memorial Gardens Cemetery (Highland Hills, OH).
  • June 21, 2016: Info received from National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) public user notifying CCMEO of a case not included in CCMEO’s unidentified case list. Days later the case is entered into NamUs – a DOJ database for missing and unidentified persons. Investigation into possible match begins.
  • December 5, 2016: Akron Police Department contacts CCMEO regarding a possible match (tentative identification). The missing person’s dental records are provided over the next few days.
  • December 13, 2017: Dr. Kent Caserta (Odontologist) compares antemortem dental records (prior to death) of Linda Pagano to post mortem dental photos/charting of unidentified remains.
  • January - August 2017: Consultations held with Medical Examiner, cemetery, city council representatives, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Dr. Linda Spurlock, Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, and NamUs about possible exhumation.
  • October 18, 2017: Body exhumed with assistance from the University of Akron (UA). UA provided magnetic and electronic surveying equipment to help map the unmarked cemetery plots. Remains found were consistent with a young white female approximately in her 20s.
  • December 11, 2017: Bone samples from exhumed remains, along with DNA samples from possible siblings, sent to the University of North Texas (UNT) for mitochondrial DNA testing. Mitochondrial DNA testing determines whether there was a maternal link between the unknown remains and the known siblings of the missing person.
  • June 29, 2018: The tentative ID was confirmed through DNA comparison to match Linda Pagano.
“On behalf of the Akron Police Department, we would like to extend our sympathies to the family of Linda Pagano. Specifically, her brother Mike and sister Cheryl.” said Akron Police Deputy Chief Jesse Leeser. “They not only lost a sister but suffered so long not knowing what happened to her or where she was.” 

“The Cleveland Metroparks Rangers would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Linda Pagano,” said Cleveland Metroparks Lieutenant Don Sylvis. “This remains an open homicide investigation, and we’re committed to pursuing any leads, and if possible, bringing Linda’s killer to justice.” 

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office, Akron Police Department, and Cleveland Metroparks Rangers strongly encourage public safety agencies, as well as the public, to enter missing persons case information into NamUs. Entering information into NamUs has proven to be vital in solving unidentified/missing persons cases. 

For additional information on NamUs, please visit: www.namus.gov