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Slain woman identified after 32 years

Staff writer

After 32 years, a relative’s submission of DNA to an online service has led to identification of a body discovered near Pilsen.

Road worker Kenneth Jost spotted a decomposed skull Sept. 21, 1987, while scooping dirt from a ditch during patching of potholes on 290th Rd.

The skull was a few feet inside a thickly wooded fencerow about 20 feet from the road. Hands and feet of the body were tied.

Garry Klose, a part-time police officer working on the road crew, reported the discovery to sheriff Mike Childs, who enlisted help from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

The body was taken to Kansas State University, but typical identification methods were unsuccessful because the remains were badly decomposed.

All that was known was that the victim was a white female between 22 and 26 years old who probably had died two to three months before her body was discovered.

A list of 350 people matching a broad description was consulted and narrowed down to 65 possibilities. Dental records were compared with assistance of Marion dentist E.K. Schroeder, but no match could be found.

The case remained open but not under active investigation until February of this year.

Then, with assistance from the non-profit volunteer DNA Doe Project, forensic scientists and KBI agents began working to identify the victim through DNA testing and genetic genealogy.

Using computerized records, investigators discovered a person whose DNA indicated he or she might be a distant cousin. The cousin had once submitted DNA to an online service.

A family tree was drawn up, and it led to a family from Cherryvale and eventually to family members Leonard (Bud) and Donna Carnall, now of Corpus Christi, Texas, who had a missing daughter.

In October, the Carnalls voluntarily submitted DNA so that the KBI could test it against the victim’s DNA.

Testing confirmed that the remains found near Pilsen belonged to their missing daughter, Michelle “Chelle” Evon Carnall-Burton.

At the time of her death, she was 22 years old and lived in Wichita. She had left her home in Cherryvale in 1986 and lost touch with her family.

A white female, she was 5 foot 7, weighed around 140 pounds, and had brown hair and hazel eyes. She had a small cross tattooed on her lower left forearm.

In a news release announcing identification of her remains last week, the KBI asked that anyone with knowledge of her whereabouts in June or July of 1987 contact the KBI at (800) 572-7463 or http://www.kbi.ks.gov/sar.

In a message sent just before the KBI news release, the Carnall family reached out to the Record.

“We are her parents and are seeking answers to so many questions,” they wrote. “Why was she in Marion County? Was she living and/or working there? Who killed her? And why? Please help us!”

The KBI and family released this photo of the victim:


Michelle “Chelle” Carnall-Burton

Last modified Jan. 1, 2020

 

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