YOUNGSTOWN – The mystery of the body found in an apartment on Westlake Terrace in 1995 has been solved with dental evidence showing the body to be America Williams, 30.
Detective Dave Sweeney of the Youngstown Police Department and Theresa Gaetano, an investigator with the Mahoning County’s coroner office, confirmed Monday that the final piece to solving the puzzle was getting photos taken while Williams was alive and hers Showing teeth.
The photos were taken by Robert C. Johnson and Erik R. Johnson of Boardman, both forensic odontologists who were able to determine that the teeth in the photos matched the teeth kept from the Jane’s remains in the Youngstown Police Department’s evidence room Doe was found on Wirt Street in 1995.
With an autopsy of the body classified as “undetermined” as the woman’s cause of death, the case is closed, Sweeney said, and the remains will be turned over to Williams’ daughter Monique.
“Now we’re just trying to locate the remains so we can bring them back to their family,” Gaetano said of the ashes from Williams’ cremation. The Fox Funeral Home that cremated the body is working to locate it, Gaetano said.
The identification means that 37-year-old Monique no longer has to wonder whether her mother is alive or dead.
“I feel relief. I feel like I’ve finally found her, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions, ”said Monique on Monday.
“These questions may never be answered, and I may not want to know. All I know is that I can lay her to rest as soon as her remains are returned to me, ”she said.
Gaetano said the autopsy showed no visible injuries to the body and no holes in clothing, suggesting a murder. Because soft tissues were missing on the skeletal remains, it was not possible to determine if there were injuries to the soft tissues, Gaetano said.
Sweeney, who has been working on cold cases for a few years, partnered with Gaetano a few months ago to investigate a new type of case – unidentified remains – and brought the case to the public through coverage over the past few months, including two articles in The Vindicator.
The coverage resulted in calls from two people – an unknown woman who Williams knew and Monique, whose last name was Williams, who grew up and lives outside the Youngstown area.
Monique found out about the investigation through the news media. She told Sweeney and Gaetano that the description of the woman and her clothes went well with her mother, including a pair of Air Nike high-top tennis shoes that were found with the remains. Her mother wore such shoes regularly.
No DNA could be collected from the teeth and a jawbone, so Sweeney and Gaetano checked a few other areas before attempting to snap the match with photos.
Monique remembers the day in mid to late 1991 when she and her brother were taken away by their mother, who was a drug addict and also abused Monique. America, Monique and her brother were living in the Silver Meadows Apartments in Kent at the time. Monique was 6 or 7.
After that, Monique and her brother had several visits to their mother. But her mother “stopped showing up for visits,” she said. Perhaps the toughest moment in Monique’s life was at the age of 8, not being allowed to see her mother until Monique was 18 years old.
By the summer of 1993, Monique and her brother had been adopted. Monique was 11 years old when the body was found on Wirt Street in 1995.
“It was difficult for me all my life when I was told I would never see my mother again until I was 18 and 8 years old. Do you know what that does to a child? It traumatized me, ”she said.
Sweeney learned that America moved a lot in the 1990s after spending time in the Ravenna, Kent, and Rootstown areas of Youngstown, where Monique was born. Old letters indicate they lived on Wilson Avenue, Monique said.
Monique, who studied criminal justice, wonders if further investigation could find out what led to her mother’s death.
“Do you know how to get a gut feeling about something and it’s really strong? Usually you are right. But I’m just glad we know her whereabouts, ”she said.
“Now it’s all about healing and mourning and getting to a point where I can let go and finally close this chapter of my life without it bothering me so much,” she said. “The older I got, the more it bothered me.”
It’s been 30 years since Monique knew where to find her mother, but she was able to help detectives identify her by providing a photo of the side view of her mother’s smile. “That confirmed it,” said Monique.
“I’m happy and grateful and relieved that I was able to find out what the hell happened to her,” she said. “It brought me a lot of relief.”
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