‘Trunk Lady’ ID’d as Sylvia Atherton 53 years later in cold case
After more than five decades, the Trunk Lady, a woman found strangled in a black steamer trunk behind a Florida restaurant on Halloween night in 1969, has finally been identified as Sylvia June Atherton, an Arizona mother of five. St. Petersburg Police announced Atherton’s identity this week after advanced DNA testing was conducted by Othram Labs in Texas. The victim’s body was buried in a grave marked “Jane Doe” before it was exhumed in 2010, but police were unable to determine her identity at the time. Over the years, police tried numerous times to identify the woman through teeth and bone samples, which proved to be too degraded. Recent DNA testing allowed investigators to confirm that Atherton, who was strangled with a Bolo tie, was 41 years old at the time of her death. Investigation into her murder remains ongoing, as does the search for Atherton’s two daughters who were with her in Chicago before her death and may have information regarding the case.
Who was the Trunk Lady?
The Trunk Lady was a woman found strangled in a black steamer trunk behind a Florida restaurant on Halloween night in 1969. Her identity remained unknown until 2022, when advanced DNA testing confirmed her to be Sylvia June Atherton, an Arizona mother of five.
How did police identify Sylvia June Atherton?
Advanced DNA testing conducted by Othram Labs in Texas allowed investigators to confirm Atherton’s identity.
What happened to Sylvia June Atherton?
Atherton was strangled with a Bolo tie and found partially clothed and wrapped in a large plastic bag with blows to her head on Oct. 31, 1969. Investigation into her murder remains ongoing.
Are there any suspects in Atherton’s murder?
The investigation into Atherton’s murder remains ongoing. Police are seeking out her two daughters who were with her in Chicago before her death and may have information regarding the case.
Why was Sylvia June Atherton buried in a grave marked “Jane Doe?”
Atherton’s identity was unknown at the time of her death, and investigators were unable to determine who she was until advanced DNA testing was conducted by Othram Labs in Texas.
How long did it take to identify the Trunk Lady?
It took more than five decades for police to identify the Trunk Lady. Atherton’s body was buried in a grave marked “Jane Doe” before it was exhumed in 2010, but investigators were unable to determine her identity at the time. It was not until advanced DNA testing was conducted that her identity was confirmed in 2022.
What happened to Atherton’s husband, Stuart Brown?
Atherton’s husband, Stuart Brown, died in 1999 in Las Vegas. There was no mention of his wife in any bankruptcy records. She was also never reported missing, police said.
What happened to Atherton’s daughters?
Two of Atherton’s daughters, who were with her in Chicago before her death, have yet to be located. Police are seeking them out because they said the two might have more information about their mother’s death.
Sylvia Atherton Identified as ‘Trunk Lady’ in Cold Case 53 Years Later
After fifty-three years of being one of the oldest, most infamous cold cases in St. Petersburg, Florida, a woman found dead in the woods on Halloween night in 1969 has finally been identified. The victim was Sylvia June Atherton, an Arizona mother of five. The woman was found strangled and wrapped in a plastic bag inside a black steamer trunk left in the woods behind a restaurant. Atherton was partially clothed and had wounds to her head. Since her identity was unknown, her body was buried with a “Jane Doe” marker. However, after advanced DNA testing by Othram Labs in Texas, her remains were identified as Atherton’s.
The murder had no ties to the city, and the police were unable to identify the woman at the time. Atherton’s ex-husband, Stuart Brown, died in 1999 in Las Vegas, and there was no mention of his wife or her murder in any bankruptcy records. The trunk was said to be owned by Atherton’s family. The victim’s hair and skin samples, taken during the autopsy, were sent for DNA testing that proved the woman to be Atherton.
The St. Petersburg Assistant Chief of Police, Michael Kovacsev, revealed that two juveniles witnessed two men place the trunk in the woods before leaving. Atherton was killed with a Bolo tie when she was 41 years old. Her daughter Syllen Gates, who was nine, and her brother and father stayed behind when Atherton left Arizona for Chicago with her husband, adult son, and daughters, one of whom was five years old.
Police are now seeking out the two daughters who are still missing, believing that they might have more information related to their mother’s death. Gates expressed her relief when police informed her, “We had no idea what happened to her… [it’s] a sad relief.” The case still remains unsolved, and Gates wants to know who committed this heinous crime against her mother and what happened to her sisters.