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Lake County coroner seeks help in identifying child found in Gary

GARY | Authorities have renewed hope of finding a family who lost a young woman to a homicide in Gary more than seven years ago.

The victim, a black woman in her late teens to early 20s, was buried years ago and largely forgotten. But the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has given her a face, and it hopes the public will recognize and help put the mystery of her death to rest.

Center specialists composed a recent reconstruction of the victim's appearance that Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey publicly released last week. Although no one has come forward so far, Frey is optimistic the reconstruction will spark recognition.

"We hope family members do come forth. We have her DNA. If any does come forth for a missing daughter or family member, we can see whether she would fit. If we get a match, we could return her to her family," Frey said.

The victim is described as black, 5 foot 4 inches, had a thin, petite build, weighed 102 pounds and had short black hair in cornrows. Her right ear was pierced once, and her left ear was pierced twice.

Police found her body Feb. 26, 2007, in an abandoned garage off Polk Street in Gary, where she apparently had died about a day earlier of blunt force trauma to her face and upper torso and asphyxiation. Her mouth was found covered with a cloth.

"It's very sad," Frey said.

"We are blessed to have the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, with whom we are working. They stayed on these cases and did a recent update on her facial features including the scars on her face."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website states its Forensic Imaging Unit works to help authorities identify unidentified human remains of several thousand children across the country.

The center has access to many public databases and can help with case analysis and mapping and its forensic artists create age-progressed photos and facial and skull reconstructions.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.