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Sacramento cold case victim identified as Dallas woman 40 years after body discovered

On Oct. 27, 1981, Lily Ann Prendergast's "skeletal remains" were found just south of Freeport Boulevard by sheriff's deputies.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office announced it has made a break in a 40-year-old cold case homicide, thanks to family DNA submitted in 2019. 

Nearly 40 years to the day of finding the body, the sheriff's office announced of Facebook it has identified Lily Ann Prendergast's skeletal remains, after finding them on Oct. 27, 1981. 

During the investigation, the sheriff's office believed Prendergast was killed one to five months prior to being found on the shoulder of Interstate-5, just south of the Freeport Boulevard overpass. At that time, all investigators could determine from the skeletal remains were they were of an adult woman, Caucasian, between the ages of 25 and 35, and that she would have been 5 feet, 5 inches tall with long brown hair. 

The victim also had a distinctive tattoo on her "right upper buttock:" a small red flower with two green leaves and a stem.

The cause of death was undetermined at the time, although the sheriff's office ruled it a homicide, the details of what exactly happened had been lost due to the long interval between her death and discovery. 

Despite multiple attempts by investigators to identify the remains — from facial reconstructions and media press releases, to submitting DNA into the state and national Missing Persons DNA Database — no one stepped forward, and the woman's identity remained a mystery. 

In February 2020, the sheriff's office received an update on the woman's DNA. A match to familial DNA references submitted to the FBI in 2019 finally revealed the victim as Lily Ann Prendergast, born April 4, 1955.

According to the FBI's page on the cold case, Prendergast was 26 years old when she was killed. The FBI also lists other names for the Prendergast: Lily Ann Willis and Lily Ann Manning. She may have been using these names at the time of her death.

Prendergast was last seen leaving her family's residence in Dallas, sometime in late 1980 after an argument. She was never heard from again. Family members told investigators Prendergast was known to hitchhike, perhaps explaining her remains being found off of a highway. She had friends and family members in Ohio, Florida, Georgia and Texas. 

The sheriff's office is still asking for the public's help to determine what exactly happened to Prendergast. 

If anyone recognizes this person or has any information regarding her disappearance, you are urged to contact the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office at (916) 874-TIPS (8477), or visit their website to submit a tip.

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