Using advanced DNA testing, police in Virginia have identified the remains of a body found in a drainage ditch 21 years ago in Fairfax County as Patricia Agnes Gildawie, a young woman who has been missing for more than 47 years.
Also known as “Choubi,” Gildawie was last seen on Feb. 8, 1975, when she was 17 years old, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release Monday.
Authorities said Gildawie’s skeletal remains were found by a construction crew on September 27, 2001. Initially, investigators believed the victim was an African-American woman in her late teens to early 20s who died of a gunshot wound to the head.
This year, cold case investigators worked with forensic experts from Othram Inc., a Texas-based laboratory that provides law enforcement with advanced DNA testing and forensic genome sequencing. This test found a half-sister, leading to Gildawie being identified as the victim and sharing her story.
“Detectives learned that Gildawie was born in France in February 1958 and came to the United States when she was eight months old,” the release said. “In the early 1970s, Gildawie moved to the town of Fairfax. Before her disappearance at the age of 17, Gildawie was dating an older man. He worked in a furniture store near the intersection of Church Street and Lawyers Road in Vienna.”
Police have not named any suspects in the case and are continuing to investigate with new information from the family. Those wishing to send tips to police are encouraged to contact authorities by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477) and online.
Major Crimes and Cyber and Forensics bureau commander Ed O’Carroll said the identification process was long but worth it.
“Identifying this young woman solves a mystery that has been more than 47 years in the making,” O’Carroll said, according to the release. “Our community should take comfort in knowing that our detectives never stop working on these cases. Advances in technology have given my Cold Case detectives an opportunity to pursue new leads and bring some relief to families who have long have suffered with the unknown.”
Fairfax County, Virginia is about 14 miles west of Washington, DC.