AKRON, Ohio — The family and friends of a missing 17-year-old gathered at a funeral home in Akron on Thursday to say goodbye more than 44 years after she vanished.
Akron Police and Linda Pagano’s family searched in vain when she disappeared in September 1974 after an argument with her stepfather at his apartment.
Linda’s brother, Michael Pagano, told Fox 8 “She was not just my sister. She was my best friend. After her disappearance, I was lost.”
No one knew it at the time, but the mystery of what happened to Linda Pagano began to unfold in 1975, six months after she vanished.
The remains of a young woman were found on the banks of the Rocky River in Strongsville. At the time, police said the victim had been shot in the head.
Detectives said because there were no leads in the murder investigation and because the victim could not be identified, she was classified as a “Jane Doe”.
The remains were later buried in a Potter’s Field in Highland Hills.
Then, more than 40 years later, an online detective was going through old cemetery records and was curious about the Jane Doe. Her research eventually led to a forensic facial reconstruction that closely resembled Linda Pagano.
It was enough to convince authorities to exhume the remains and do a DNA comparison with Linda’s surviving relatives. This confirmed that Jane Doe was Linda Pagano.
“All through the years, all the praying and everything, God finally answered our prayers. As far as I’m concerned, she’s an angel,” said Michael Pagano.
While heartbroken about how Linda’s life ended, her family is grateful that modern science helped answer some of the questions that haunted them since 1974.
“There’s like tons and tons of weight lifted off finally. Now it’s just the memories that I got,” said Michael Pagano.
The remains of Linda Pagano will be laid to rest next to her mother’s grave at Holy Cross Cemetery.
Mrs. Pagano died in 2012 and never knew what happened to her daughter.
Police say the investigation of the murder of Linda Pagano remains an open case. Detectives say the last person to see Linda alive, her stepfather Byron Claflin, would have been a person of interest in the investigation, but he died in 1990.