Human remains discovered in 1978 identified

Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

In 1978, a garment bag containing human remains and women’s clothing was found in a remote area in Pershing County.

Now, after nearly 45 years, the remains have been identified using forensic genealogy.

The Nevada State Police announced Wednesday that the remains, found near Scossa Road, approximately 13 miles west of Imlay, are those of Florence Charleston of Cleveland, Ohio, who had moved to Portland, Ore. sometime before 1978.


The human remains were sent to the Washoe Medical Center for examination in October of 1978. An autopsy revealed the victim to be a Caucasian female approximately 40 years of age or greater. Due to the remains being heavily decayed, a cause of death could not be determined. No identifying information for the female remains was located during the investigation.

In May of 1979, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office requested the assistance of the Nevada State Police – Investigation Division. Detectives conducted an investigation through multiple channels in an attempt to identify the individual, to include media releases requesting information from the public, following up on numerous tips, submitting dental records for comparison purposes, working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain identifying information from the articles of clothing, completing a facial reconstruction, and obtaining a mitochondrial DNA profile from the female remains. The case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, However, the investigation did not result in establishing a significant lead.

In March of 2022 the Investigation Division and NamUs enlisted the assistance of Othram, an American company specializing in forensic genealogy, to perform advanced forensic DNA testing of the female remains and a genealogy search. As a result of this new technology, several new investigative leads were developed, resulting in the identification.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Charleston had moved to Portland, Oregon sometime in the early 1970’s and family members lost contact with her by 1978.

The State Police says the investigation into Charleston’s death is still ongoing. Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the Nevada State Police – Investigation Division at (775) 684-7456.

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