- Associated Press - Saturday, August 13, 2016

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - Authorities say they plan to exhume the remains of a woman whose decomposed body was found wrapped in a blanket and doused with sulfuric acid alongside a northeastern Pennsylvania highway more than four decades ago.

Luzerne County investigators say the woman found in August 1973 was never identified but the circumstances have long made them consider her death “highly suspicious.”

Judge Tina Polachek Gartley on Friday granted a petition to allow county investigators to exhume the body, which is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Hanover Township.

The remains will be sent to a forensic pathologist at a Florida university for examination using current methods, which officials hope will help move the case forward.

“With the new technology we now have, that we didn’t have in 1973, there’s a good chance this woman may be identified,” Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Friday.

The petition submitted by prosecutors said DNA can be collected to enter into a database that links to samples of people missing family members. A facial reconstruction could also be done, and there could also be a skeletal examination, isotope testing, X-rays and an MRI, the petition said.

According to a report published in August 1973, the body was found about 100 feet off of Interstate 80 in Black Creek Township by a traveler who stopped to take a walk in the nearby woods. The woman was between the ages of 21 and 30, about 5 feet tall and 100 lbs., and “attired in a blouse, shorts, and slippers,” the report said.

A forensic examination concluded that the body had been at the dump site for two or three days, but was unable to identify a specific cause of death and the manner was left as “undetermined,” according to the petition.

After the Sept. 26 disinterment and the examination, the woman’s body will be returned to the cemetery and reburied, according to the petition.

Salavantis said any criminal charges would depend on the results of the examination, which could take a few months, and further investigation.

“It starts with identifying the individual,” she said.

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