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Skeletal remains found by Montana bear hunter identified as missing mother more than 35 years later

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 5/11/2021 Jessica Schladebeck

Mysterious remains known only as “Christy Crystal Creek” have been identified more than 35 years after they were first discovered by a bear hunter in Montana.

For years, authorities have struggled to uncover the identify of a body found near Missoula County’s Crystal Creek on September 9, 1985.

“Despite decades of work with forensic anthropologists and a forensic odontologist, and hours of research scouring missing persons databases here and in Canada, her identity remained a mystery,” the Missoula Count Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.

On Monday, however, authorities revealed they received a break in the case earlier this year that allowed them to identify the victim as Janet Lee Lucas, a 23-year-old mother from Washington state.

Remains discovered 36 years ago, and dubbed "Christy Crystal Creek," have been identified as Janet Lee Lucas, authorities said. © Provided by New York Daily News Remains discovered 36 years ago, and dubbed "Christy Crystal Creek," have been identified as Janet Lee Lucas, authorities said.

Remains discovered 36 years ago, and dubbed "Christy Crystal Creek," have been identified as Janet Lee Lucas, authorities said.

With financial assistance from Montana Department of Justice’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative program, the Cold Case Unit was able to partner with Othram labs to dig deeper in the case. Together, the agencies were able to conduct advanced DNA analysis, which ultimately allowed authorities to develop a family tree and reach out to potential relatives.

Lucas had seven siblings and a 5-year-old son when she disappeared. Investigators say her little boy grew up spending “much of his adult life searching for Janet.” Now, investigators and her family are working to find answers about what exactly happened to the young mother before her grisly death.

“Our focus has changed from ‘who is Christy Crystal Creek?’ to ‘what happened to Janet Lucas?’” Det. Capt. Dave Conway said in a statement. ”This is now a cold case homicide investigation and we need your help.”

The “Christy Crystal Creek” case has garnered increased attention over the years, thanks in particular to several similarities it shares with those involving a suspected serial killer dubbed the “Missoula Mauler.” His real name was Wayne Nance and he’s accused of killing at least six people in Montana between 1974 and 1986.

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