Nearly 28 years ago, road workers discovered the body of a young woman near a canal in the 4300 block of East Williams Field Road in Gilbert. She has been unidentified since, buried as a Jane Doe in Tempe's Twin Buttes Cemetery for the indigent.
But now, a harder push is on to identify the woman, estimated to be between 25 and 30 years old with dark brown hair and extensive orthodontic work including a bridge plant in her lower front teeth.
The woman, who is either Native American or Hispanic, is 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighed 142 pounds and had shoulder length curly dark brown hair. She is one of 735 unidentified deaths in Arizona, with 202 of them in Maricopa County alone. Of those, up to 30 percent of the county's unidentified deaths are from the East Valley, according to information from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.
The woman was found shortly after 8 a.m. on August 15, 1983, and her cause of death was suffocation, according to Dr. Laura Fulginiti, a forensic anthropologist with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office. Her body was exhumed March 22, the same day Shannon Aumock was positively identified nearly 20 years after her body was discovered in a pile of trash by an ATV rider in north Phoenix near Deer Valley Road and North 26th Street.
Aumock she was found was strangled to death on May 28, 1992, soon after her 16th birthday, according to the medical examiner.
The Gilbert and Chandler police departments each has active homicide investigations under way.
Fulginiti, who said she has a dream to put a name on each unidentified person, has been able to move forward in recent months with completing her mission. With the help of an ongoing $138,000 federal grant received by the county through the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and National Institute of Justice to fund research for unidentified deaths, the medical examiner's office has exhumed 24 bodies since September and has identified five of them. The office also has leads on three more unidentified deaths, including a man believed to be from Chandler who was killed in a motorcycle crash in the late 1980s.
"When we received the grant, we were hoping to get one person identified," Fulginiti said. "We've identified five and have the names of two others we need to positively identify, so we've had much higher success than expected. It has encouraged us to go forward."
If anyone has any information about the death of Shannon Aumock, the woman found in Gilbert, or the man whose skeletal remains were found in the Superstition Mountains, they can call the Phoenix Police Department's Violent Crimes Bureau at (602) 262-6141 or Silent Witness at (480) 948-6377.
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