East Haven

East Haven Police Exhume Wrong Body in Connection to 1975 Cold Case Murder

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NBC Connecticut

Police in East Haven exhumed a body in connection to a 1975 murder only to find out they dug up the wrong person.

Officials said they were confident that they located the burial location of the woman, but ultimately determined it wasn't the body they were looking for.

Investigators have been working on a cold case homicide in which the body of an unidentified woman was bound, gagged and wrapped up in a tarp. The body was found in a drainage ditch on Aug. 16, 1975, according to police.

At the time, detectives followed several leads but never came up with anything solid to go off of. Officials said the woman's body stayed at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) for over a year before being taken to a funeral home.

According to police, the East Haven Memorial Funeral Home facilitated a burial at the now-abandoned State Street Cemetery, but they never marked her grave.

The State Street Cemetery Association has been under fire for improper and inaccurate burial records, as well as mass burials, over the years. Police said the cemetery was known as a place where transients, homeless people and unclaimed bodies were buried.

The burial site wasn't known for 47 years. In 2020, officials said they tried to identify the body using DNA samples and genealogy, but all three attempts failed. Because of this, police decided that it was time to try to locate the burial site and exhume her.

Investigators said they conducted extensive research, including leveraging public burial records at the Hamden Clerks Office and tracking down the last known living associate of the former cemetery.

On Wednesday, police said they executed a search warrant and found a casket in the exact area that was believed to be the grave site. But once officers reached the casket and inspected it, they realized the body didn't belong to their murder victim.

"We are determined to identify her to hopefully bring some closure to her family, but we have to navigate the challenges of locating her in an abandoned cemetery first," Captain Joseph Murgo said in a statement.

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