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Genealogical testing IDs Minneapolis woman 23 years after 'suspicious' death

The New Brighton Department of Public Safety says the remains of Gail Johnson, who was 40 when she died, were found on Sept. 15, 2000, in Long Lake Regional Park.
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NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. — Twenty-three years after a woman's remains were found in New Brighton's Long Lake Regional Park, officials say her identity has finally been revealed, thanks to advancements in genealogic testing technology.

The New Brighton Department of Public Safety said the woman, whose body was found on Sept. 15, 2000 in a wooded, marshy area of the park, has been identified as Gail Marlene Johnson. Johnson was 40 years old at the time of her death and was last known to live in Minneapolis. When her body was found, investigators said they believed she had been deceased in that location for up to two months.

Authorities say despite an extensive probe into who she was and how she died over the last two decades, it wasn't until investigators partnered with a forensics team over the summer that Johnson's identity was uncovered. Public safety officials said they compared Johnson's DNA profile with others in a public database, eventually identifying a match to someone in her family.

“It’s been 23 years and we never gave up on finding out who this woman was and what happened to her,“ New Brighton Public Safety Director Tony Paetznick said. “Identifying her provides an important new clue as we continue our work to determine the circumstances of her death.”

Police say that while they have been able to successfully identify Johnson's body, they still haven't been able to determine the cause and manner of her death due to the body's condition when it was found. However, authorities are treating the circumstances of her death as "suspicious."

Johnson is described at her death as being 5'7 and 135 pounds with light brown hair. She also drove a 1989 Ford Mustang.

Police say Johnson had been a sex worker and her last known interaction with police was on July 11, 2000.

Anyone with information about Johnson's death is urged to contact the New Brighton Department of Public Safety by phone at 651-288-4141; a form on its website or by emailing gail@newbrightonmn.gov.


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