New DNA information in 1982 cold case killing at Lake Tahoe

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RENO, Nev. — Washoe County homicide detectives have uncovered new DNA information in their cold case investigation into the shooting death of an unidentified woman found near Lake Tahoe in 1982.

Sheriff Darin Balaam held a news conference in Reno Tuesday to announce what he says is a major breakthrough in the investigation into the murder of a woman known only as “Sheep’s Flat Jane Doe.”

Deputies found her body in July 1982 near a popular hiking trail in the Sheep’s Flat area near Tahoe’s north shore just off the Mount Rose Highway above Incline Village. The woman had no identification or jewelry. Based on dental work and an innoculation scar, police, at the time, believed she may be from Europe. Police could never locate a missing person’s report that matched the victim.

Washoe County used the same techniques used to identify the Golden State Killer.

However, after doing DNA research in the past year, police have been able to identify the woman as Mary Edith Silvani, who was born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1948. 

They’ve also identified a suspect in the case as James Richard Curry who was born in Texas. Police said, five months after Silvani’s murder, he was arrested and confessed to three other murders which occurred in California. He never confessed to Silvani’s or another murder in California police believe he did. Curry died in Jan. 1983.

“This is an incredible story and I am extremely proud of the work done by everyone who took part in this case over the past three decades,” Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam said. “Even taking advantage of new genealogical technologies, a great deal of investigative work was done by Sheriff’s Office staff working this case. A reminder that the pursuit of justice never sleeps here at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.”

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