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Woman found dead on Riverside County freeway nearly 30 years ago ID’d through genetic genealogy

A woman who was found dead along the 60 Freeway near Moreno Valley 27 years ago was finally identified using genetic genealogy, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said Monday.

Juana Rosas-Zagal was 41 years old when her body was found along the freeway east of Gilman Springs Road on Jan. 27, 1996.

The Los Angeles resident was the victim of a homicide, though no further information was given about how she died, and the case remains unsolved.

The case lacked investigative leads and the victim had not been identified for decades.

Authorities had developed a composite sketch of her likeness, but who she was remained a mystery.

A sketch of Juana Rosas-Zagal was provided by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

Last December, however, the Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team was able to identify Rosas-Zagal and four of her daughters who had lost hope of knowing their mother’s whereabouts.

“Using current DNA technologies, such as Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy, the team was able to locate a close ancestral link. That technology uses direct-to-consumer databases to explore the ancestral ties of unidentified homicide victims,” officials detailed.

The team was able to find Rosas-Zagal’s daughters using other databases like the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The Riverside Crime Lab, through its Missing and Unidentified Persons System, was then able to positively identify the victim as Rosas-Zagal, officials said.

The scene of Juana Rosas-Zagal's is shown in an image provided by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.
The scene of Juana Rosas-Zagal’s is shown in an image provided by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

“He destroyed my family. He didn’t kill only one person, he killed all of us,” one of Rosas-Zagal’s daughter said of her mother’s killer in an audio recording provided by the DA’s Office. “I really really wish if somebody knows something, they can let us know. Because for me, all of this is so difficult, but at the same time, I really want to know who killed my mother.”

Investigators believe there are still people out there who may be able to provide more information about Rosas-Zagal’s disappearance and death.

Anyone who knew her or has more information about what happened to her, is asked to call detectives at 951-955-0740 or 951-955-2777.

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