After 18 years, DNA identifies woman discovered in burning dumpster

Police in California are closer to solving a cold case mystery after positively identifying the charred remains of a woman who was found in a burning dumpster more than 18 years earlier.

Citing police, The Sacramento Bee reported that Perrean Gray, 20, was the woman firefighters found dead in a dumpster on June 29, 2001. With the help of Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based private genealogy laboratory, Sacramento homicide investigators identified Gray and ascertained that she had been reported missing in San Francisco.

“Based on DNA evidence, homicide detectives believe that the death of Perrean Gray is related to her disappearance,” Sacramento police officials said in a statement on Tuesday.

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A composite sketch and 3D rendition of the then-unidentified woman [Image: Sacramento Police Department]
Parabon NanoLabs reportedly provided police with a composite image of what the unidentified victim possibly looked based on evidence recovered from the 2001 crime scene.

Initial sketch and 3D composite images erroneously depicted Gray as a white woman. Police told KTXL that an autopsy and deep tissue examination performed years earlier suggested Gray was white or “light-skinned from another race.”

Parabon NanoLabs, who received the DNA in 2017, used an emerging technology called phenotyping to determine Gray’s race. They also provided police with a more accurate depiction of Gray’s possible appearance at age 25.

“They’re able to predict what someone’s physical traits look like, what the shape of their face looks like, even down to eye color, skin color, freckles if you had any,” Sacramento Police Department Officer Linda Matthew explained.

Law enforcement officials told The Bee that the break in the 18-year-old case came recently. Additional details regarding Gray’s identification remain undisclosed.

Anyone with information regarding Perrean Gray’s disappearance and death should call the Sacramento Police Department’s dispatch center at 916-264-5471 or Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at 916-443-4357.

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[Featured image: Perrean Gray, composite sketches/Sacramento Police Department]