Woman thinks Grundy County cold case victim may be missing sister

Michelle Gallardo Image
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
DNA test results could help solve Grundy County cold case
The results of a DNA test could help solve a murder in Grundy County that's been a mystery for more than 40 years.

GRUNDY COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- The results of a DNA test could help solve a murder in Grundy County that's been a mystery for more than 40 years.

An unidentified black woman was found dead in a ditch within a mile of Interstate 80 on Oct. 2, 1976. Investigators said she may have ties to Columbus, Mississippi.

A woman who lives in that town has come forward, saying she thinks the victim is her long-lost sister.

Lyrian Barry-Stallings has been missing since the 1960s, when she moved to Illinois. Her sister has given a DNA sample for testing.

The case is Grundy County's only cold case.

RELATED: Billboard seeks public's help in solving Grundy County's only cold case

On Oct. 2, 1976, a black woman between the ages of 18 and 23 years old was found dead in a ditch in Grundy County.

An electric billboard outside the Joliet Regional Airport has a photo of what authorities believe the woman looked like. The caption reads: "The year was 1976. Who was I?"

"She was found partially clothed, with a gunshot wound to the head," said Grundy County Coroner John Callahan. "It's bothered me, knowing she's someone's daughter, someone's loved one. Her parents are probably deceased, however she could have brothers or sisters or cousins."

Forty-two years passed with no leads. Ten months ago, Callahan and his staff decided it was time to find out who the woman was.

The victim was believed to be between 18 to 23 years old. She was 5-feet-7-inches and approximately 150 pounds. She was African American, but Grundy County's population at the time was mostly white which is why authorities suspect she was not a local resident.

Officials believe her body was dumped in the ditch, not where she was murdered.

Advances in genetic testing and national organizations dedicated to tracking missing people gave Grundy County officials a second chance.

The first step was getting an accurate picture of what she looked like. Gunshot injuries to the victim's face partially disfigured her, so sketch artists created two renderings they hope to distribute.

They also used DNA evidence found on a sweater she was wearing to create a profile. That profile is now being used to test against all missing African American women in her age range nationwide from that era.

"I have a list of 17 females. Of those 17, I feel like four or five of them are potential matches. Two are from Texas. One from Kentucky. One from Washington state," says Grundy County Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson. "So right now, the DNA is being tested in Texas. Once that's completed they're going to compare our individual from the rest of them and tell us whether or not it's an exclusion or indeed is a match."

For more information on the case, visit www.namus.gov.

Anyone who thinks they may recognize the woman in the photos should call the Grundy County Coroner's Office at 815-942-3792.