Detectives, coroners struggle to put a face on remains

Friday, November 24, 2000
By M. Ferguson Tinsley, Pittsburg Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The corpse had no face.No face at all. No name. No identity. Instead, lying on a gurney in a blue plastic body bag at the Allegheny County morgue, she was molding skin and bones. Just "remains." She had once been a living human being.

On Oct. 3, a project manager looking over his company's property in Homestead happened upon the corpse hidden about 20 feet inside an abandoned railroad tunnel near CSX tracks behind the Waterfront Giant Eagle.Since that discovery, county law enforcement officers and the coroner's office have worked to figure out who she is.They've learned little. They believe she was a white female, average height, probably late teens to early 20s. They think she had been in the tunnel since February. And they believe she was murdered. But, proving how she died depends on the laborious step-by-step process of first identifying the Homestead corpse. If county investigators fail, her life and death will remain a mystery. More important, if they fail, and if she was indeed slain, her killer will remain free to kill again.

The process of identifying the Homestead body began with police investigators culling missing person records ... (see link below)

Police still seeking answers in 3 other cases:

As Allegheny County police sift through the sparse clues to the identity of the body found in a Homestead railroad tunnel last month, they still seek information on the identities of three others found dead in the county in the last three years.
- On June 28, 1999, around 2:10 p.m., the skeleton of a young woman, believed to be black, was discovered by a worker renovating a home at 604 North Ave. in Wilkinsburg. Medical examiners say she was between 18 and 35 years old, of average height and weighed about 121 pounds. The woman wore black FUBU jeans and a brown, white and beige print top. Police believe she was strangled.

- On April 11, 1999, around 5 p.m. a newborn infant was found floating in the Ohio River off Neville Island. The baby boy was full term, naked, with the umbilical cord still attached. Two workers at a plant on the island found the child.

- On June 19, 1997, around 5:30 p.m., an elderly black woman was found behind the Ponderosa restaurant on Ohio River Boulevard in Avalon. She was lying face up in a sleeping bag under a mattress. She wore a yellow sweat shirt with "United Support of Artists for Africa" emblazoned on it. A Buffalo, N.Y., man temporarily living on the property found the woman.