In the summer of 1984, Otani was a 26-year-old medical research student at the University of Maryland Medical School. On July 19, a neighbor found Otani's body in her Woodmont Avenue apartment. She had been strangled and stabbed multiple times.

Police found an unsigned hand-written note to Otani in the apartment. But 30 years later, no one has been charged with her death.

Elaine Miye Otani was 26 years old, a Ph.D. student who attended the School during 1980-1984, when her life came to an abrupt end. She was a student who stood for hard work and perseverance with an intense interest in her field of study. She was especially interested in the mechanisms of cellular differentiation and carcinogenesis. Yet she found time to spread her friendship and goodwill among those around her, trying at the same time to inspire them in their studies.