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Remains found in southeastern Colorado in 1988 identified

DNA helped investigators identify the remains found in Baca County as Nora Elia Castillo. Investigators are still working to determine how she died.

BACA COUNTY, Colo. — Remains that were found in southeastern Colorado in 1988 have been identified as a woman whose daughter reported her missing in 1996, the Baca County Sheriff's Office said.

DNA helped investigators identify the remains as Nora Elia Castillo. Investigators are still working to determine how she died. 

The Sheriff's Office said a farmer found the woman's remains on his farm about 20 miles southeast of Springfield in June 1988. At the time, investigators estimated the remains had been there for one to three years.

Investigators made many efforts to identify the person, but the case eventually went cold. The remains were given the name Jane Doe and buried in the Springfield cemetery.

In May 2021, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation submitted data from the case into NamUs, a national database of missing and unidentified people. Investigators found the old DNA records, but due to the limitations of the technology at the time, they weren't sufficient for modern genetic genealogy research, the Sheriff's Office said. 

In December 2021, the woman's remains were exhumed and new DNA samples were obtained. The remains were then reinterred in the Springfield cemetery.

In October, the Sheriff's Office said, investigators learned the Jane Doe's DNA profile had been linked to a woman who submitted a DNA sample to police in McAllen, Texas. That woman, whose name was not released, submitted her DNA to police in 2004 as part of the search for her missing mother, Nora Elia Castillo.

The missing person case was filed in 1996, but the daughter told police at the time that her mother had been missing since 1986 or 1987. She also told police that the last contact with Castillo was a collect call from somewhere in Colorado.

A genetic genealogy company, Solved by DNA, also found a family member through DNA research, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Investigators went back to the evidence and confirmed Castillo was the Jane Doe. They said her family members have now had the opportunity to visit her burial site, as well as the place where she was found in 1988.

Investigators are still working to figure out the circumstances surrounding Castillo's death.

"It is our hope that anyone with information about this case will see this release and contact law enforcement," the sheriff's office said in a news release. "If you have any information about Nora Elia Castillo or this case, please contact the Baca County Sheriff’s Office at (719) 523-4511 or the McAllen Texas Police Department at (956) 681-2221. The Baca County Sheriff’s Office will continue to investigate this case as a potential homicide."

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