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Saturday, 01 August 2015 08:46

Florida Murder Victim Identified as Turlock Missing Person 25 Years After Crime

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A 1986 photo of Patricia Minnis, who has been identified as the victim of a Florida murder that occurred in 1990. A 1986 photo of Patricia Minnis, who has been identified as the victim of a Florida murder that occurred in 1990. Courtesy of Collier County Sheriff’s Department
After 25 years, the remains of a woman found in Florida in 1990 ha been identified as a person reported missing in Turlock in 1992.

On the morning of April 3, 1990, the deceased remains of a female were discovered by a prison crew in Collier County, Fla.

For more than two decades the body remained unidentified until recently, when forensic science helped identify the victim as Patricia Minnis — a woman reported missing to the Turlock Police Department in 1992.

At the time, detectives believed she had been deceased for approximately three weeks before she was discovered under heavy brush near Gannet Strand along U.S. 41 East, 22 miles south of Everglades City, Fla. An autopsy revealed that she died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The body was found with some clothes, but no identifying clues were recovered. Even with the autopsy revealing extensive dental work and metal plates in the victim’s back, her identity went unknown for 25 years.

In 1999, with few clues or leads, a forensic expert with the Jacksonville County Sheriff’s Office used Minnis’ skull to rebuild her face to help jog the memory of someone who might recognize her and contact authorities. However, nobody recognized the person.

Minnis’ disappearance

Although having not spoken with her for more than two years, Minnis’ family never suspected that she could have been a victim of foul play.

Minnis and her husband often traveled the U.S. in their RV, so it wasn’t uncommon for Minnis to go long periods of time without contacting her family.

In 1990, the couple traveled through many southern states, including Florida and the Everglades area where the body was located.

Minnis’ daughter hadn’t suspected that her mother was missing until her stepsister discovered Minnis’ purse in the RV. When asked about the purse, Minnis’ husband said that Minnis had run off with another man while they were in Florida and left her purse behind.

Upon learning the information, Minnis’ daughter became suspicious and filed a missing persons report with the Turlock Police Department on May 9, 1992, said Turlock police spokesperson Officer Mayra Lewis.

Minnis would have been 57 years old when her daughter reported her missing.

“The purse was key to everything because it initiated enough questions and suspicions from both children,” said Detective Thom Cullen of the CCSO Homicide Section and the lead investigator in the case.

Turlock police remain active on missing persons case

For the years following Minnis’ missing persons report, the Turlock Police Department continued to check in with the family for new information.

According to Lewis, Turlock police would periodically check with Minnis’ daughter to see if she had been found.

In 2006, the Turlock Police Department asked for a DNA sample from Minnis’ daughter in hopes of finding a match in the national database.

Minnis’ daughter obliged and her submitted DNA helped finally give law enforcement what they needed to solve both cases.

Forensic science breaks open the case

It wasn’t until June 18, 2015, that there was finally a break in the case, when the University of Texas Center for Human Identification sent a letter to law enforcement.

The letter said that DNA evidence of the body found in Florida, which had been resubmitted in 2005, was a strong match for the DNA submitted by Minnis’ daughter in 2006.

With this lead, Senior Criminal Research Investigator Kim Cherney began her investigation. She took key points from the DNA report and began contacting dentists and doctors for medical records comparison.

Cherney found that the victim had back surgery, which required implants be placed. Although she contacted several hospitals, no records of the surgery were found. The hospital could only advise that the implants were manufactured in 1988.

She also searched the internet and law enforcement database for the victim. She contacted various campgrounds in Collier County and major travel/camping membership clubs to see if there was any information on the victim.

Murder remains under investigation

After 25 years, the 1990 murder now has an identity for their Jane Doe, but the case is far from closed.

The identity of Minnis’ murderer remains a mystery. Collier County Sheriff’s Department detectives said they have identified a potential person of interest, but their identity has not been released.

The investigation remains under investigation by the Collier County Sheriff’s Department.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Department 239-252-9300. You may also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-8477 to remain anonymous. 

Using a science called facial approximation, a forensic expert used Patricia Minnis' skull to rebuild her face in 1999.
Courtesy of Collier County Sheriff’s Department

Courtesy of Collier County Sheriff’s Department

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