Nancy Carol Fitzgerald found dead after 50 years: prosecutor

Composite sketch by Nancy Carol Fitzgerald

Nancy Carol Fitzgerald was just 16 years old when she disappeared the day after Easter Sunday in 1972. Now, over 50 years later, authorities believe her remains have been recovered.

According to the Monmouth County Attorney’s Office, skeletal remains, first discovered in 1988 near the Henry Hudson Bike Trail in the Atlantic Highlands County District, were recently retested and positively identified as Fitzgerald’s property.

“Today’s announcement marks the culmination of decades of hard work by a network of individuals whose collective determination and ingenuity have proven inexhaustible,” the Monmouth County Attorney said Raymond S Santiago said inside a press release on Monday, December 5, 2022. “It is not only a testament to their efforts, but also reflects our firm commitment to uncovering the truth and serving the interests of justice, regardless of the passage of time or the obstacles to investigation.” could ever stand in the way.”

According to the MCPO, the teen’s remains were found on December 10, 1988 during a community clean-up off Bayside Drive. New Jersey State Forensic Anthropologist Donna Fontana investigated the grim discovery and determined that the remains belonged to a white woman between the ages of 15 and 18. The scientist put the time of her death sometime in the mid-1970s.

The MCPO and the Atlantic Highlands Police Department launched a joint investigation into the find, but no identification was made for years and the case went cold. Sometime in the 1990s, a DNA profile was created “for comparison purposes,” prosecutors said, but it wasn’t particularly helpful at first.

In 2020 MCPO Lieutenant Andrea Tozi and detective Wayne Rayner tried a different avenue of investigation. They contacted the Virginia-based DNA analysis company Bode Technology and asked for help.

After an advanced “forensic genealogical review of the case,” the company said it was able to identify a distant relative of Fitzgerad who lived in Georgia. This relative later agreed to an interview and also gave the company her mother’s DNA. The additional genetic information was used to track down another relative, this time a woman living in Pennsylvania.

The second wife turned out to be Fitzgerald’s younger sister.

In August of this year, she also sat down for an interview and also provided her own DNA. An analysis by Bode found there was a greater than 99 percent “probability of an immediate family match” for the DNA extracted from the long-missing girl’s remains. This was followed by the official and formal identification.

this sister, Kathleen UnterbergerIn a long interview with the she reflected on her big sister’s disappearance Asbury Park Press.

“I never really stopped thinking about her, but once I stopped thinking about it, I think life got easier,” Unterberger told the newspaper. “But now I have that feeling again. I just want to hold her.”

The grieving sister said she was often mistaken for Fitzgerald and was occasionally teased for the striking resemblance. She also said her sister had been dealing with legal troubles and drug problems in the year before she disappeared.

“I always wanted to find her,” she says Regional TV channel News 12. “But that’s not how I wanted to find her.”

Unterberger said that following a barbiturate overdose and a drug-related arrest, her sister made statements about her adult drug supplier that led to his arrest. The 16-year-old disappeared shortly thereafter.

“In those days — if you were missing, you were a runaway … especially if she was a troubled girl,” she said. “We never realized that she would never come back.”

To this day, authorities aren’t sure when or how Fitzgerald died, but investigators note such an investigation is the obvious next step.

“While we’re certainly heartened that the identification was conducted to solve a 50-year-old mystery, ultimately this is a puzzle that will remain uncompleted until we find the last missing piece: the circumstances behind Nancy’s death,” Santiago said . “To that end, we are urging anyone with information on this matter to come forward and let us know what they know. Ms Fitzgerald’s peers would probably all be in their 60s today, so we firmly believe it’s not too late to determine what happened to her and why – and, if possible, every living person who might be responsible , to be held accountable. ”

Fitzgerald was not a resident of Morris County at the time of her disappearance. Three years before her disappearance, her family moved from one home in Essex County to another in the community of Bloomfield.

About a year after her sister went missing, she said, her mother received a disturbing call from a screaming girl who needed help.

“Mom, I made a big mistake,” the girl pleaded on the phone. “Come get me, come get me, help.”

[image via National Center for Missing and Exploited Children]

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