Sheriff deputies say someone murdered a young woman roughly seven months ago and dumped her body in the woods off Highway 260, leaving little evidence of what happened. Detectives are now trying to piece together a perplexing case while a killer remains on the loose.
The identity of the young woman, whose body was found mummified two-and-a-half miles off Highway 260 just off the Young Road, remains clouded in mystery.
Where the woman came from and how she ended up naked and tossed casually into the woods is unknown, but officers are investigating the death as a homicide.
Detectives have few clues to work with, but do know the woman’s body sat undetected for three to four months before a camper stumbled upon the remains after his dog persistently led him to the area in July.
So far, no missing person reports have matched up to the woman’s description or dental work.
Gila County Sheriff’s Det. George Ratliff said the only clues they have are from the body itself.
The woman wore an inexpensive ring, had her toenails and fingernails painted vibrant blue and wore a thong, which was found near the body. She also had alcohol and marijuana in her system.
An autopsy revealed the woman likely died of blunt force trauma to the skull, leading Ratliff to believe the woman was killed and her body stashed in the woods.
Several weeks ago, Ratliff sent the woman’s skull off to an FBI lab where facial assimilation could reveal what she looked like. It could be months before Ratliff receives results from the lab, putting the case at a standstill.
At 7 a.m. on July 22, Ratliff said he got a call that a woman’s body had been found 83 feet off Forest Service Road 512 — the Young Road — two-and-a- half miles from Highway 260. The caller reported the female body was badly decomposed and lying near several young saplings.
When Ratliff arrived, he found the body lying in plain sight.
A camper explained that his dog had pulled him to the area the night before, but he had ignored the dog’s request. The next morning, while walking the dog again, the man decided to let the dog lead. He then stumbled upon the body.
A pathologist later determined the woman was likely between 16 and 20 years old, 5’3” to 5’4” tall with a slight build, weight around 105 pounds.
Although the body’s skin was decomposing, Ratliff believes the woman was of white or Hispanic decent with dark colored hair. The woman’s teeth were in fair condition, with some dental work including a crown and a few teeth missing.
The body was found remarkably intact, with most of the bones remaining.
No clothing or identification was found at the scene. Ratliff discovered a stainless steel ring with an inexpensive glass stone later after rummaging through the body bag full of maggots.
Testing of the maggots revealed that the woman did have alcohol and marijuana in her system at the time of death.
Little else is known about the woman.
Reports of missing women out of Chandler and Navajo County with similar descriptions have so far not matched up to the body. Once Ratliff receives results back from the FBI, he should have a better idea of the woman’s identity.