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Woman Who Died 23 Years Ago Identified Through Genetic Genealogy

Investigators Urge Public to Provide Information About Her Death

The New Brighton Department of Public Safety announces a break in a cold case death investigation. A woman whose remains were found 23 years ago in Long Lake Park has been identified through genetic genealogy and DNA. Gail Marlene Johnson, age 40 at the time of her death, was last known to reside in Minneapolis.

On September 15, 2000, two teenagers on a walk in Long Lake Regional Park found an unidentified woman’s body in a wooded and marshy area. Investigators believe she had been there up to two months. Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) forensic scientists obtained DNA from the remains but it did not match to anyone in missing persons or convicted offender databases. Despite exhaustive investigative efforts over the years, who she was and how she died remained unknown.

This past summer, investigators worked with Astrea Forensics to obtain the type of DNA profile that is required for genetic genealogy. Using this profile, the DNA Doe Project then searched public databases, ultimately identifying a likely genetic connection to Johnson’s family.

New Brighton investigators obtained a DNA sample from a family member in Minnesota and BCA forensic scientists confirmed the family connection.

“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.”

Because of the condition of her remains, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office could not determine Gail Johnson’s cause and manner of death, but investigators consider the circumstances suspicious.

Gail Johnson was 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 135 pounds and had light brown hair. She drove a black or gray 1989 Ford Mustang, had been a sex worker, and was known to spend time along Lake Street in Minneapolis. Her last known interaction with law enforcement was on July 11, 2000.

The New Brighton Department of Public Safety urges anyone who knew or had contact with Gail Johnson to contact the police department using one of the following:

 Phone: 651-288-4141

 Website form: https://newbrightonmn.gov/gail (the QR code below will also link to this form)

 Email: gail@newbrightonmn.gov

Investigators are grateful to the DNA Doe Project, Astrea Forensics, Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office, FBI Minneapolis and the Minnesota BCA for their efforts that resulted in Gail Johnson being identified.

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