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Date: February 22, 2021
Contact: Lt. Brian Tozer
Flagstaff, AZ – Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll confirmed identification of a female found deceased on February 14, 1982 on Interstate 40 west of Williams. This case has generated a great deal of local and statewide interest and has become commonly referred to as the “Valentine Sally Case”.
Detectives with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office have positively identified the female as 17-year-old Carolyn Eaton, of St. Louis, Missouri. Her body was found nearly 40 years ago on the north side of Interstate 40 west of Williams, Arizona. Detectives have been working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), National Missing and Unidentified Person System (NamUs) and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to identify “Valentine Sally” through familial DNA. This process utilized a private company that specializes in DNA processing for submission into online databases for genetic comparison. Information obtained from this database search identified a relative of “Valentine Sally”. Through this process, detectives were able to locate potential family members of Carolyn, obtain DNA samples from them, and confirm the identity of the body as Carolyn. Identification of unidentified victims is a difficult and lengthy process and can be costly to agencies looking to identify victims of crimes. Recent breakthroughs in DNA technology have allowed Law Enforcement Agencies to identify victims as well as suspects in cold cases such as these.
This case began on February 14th in 1982 (Valentine’s Day), when the body of a deceased female was located on the north side of Interstate 40 at mile post 151.8 by an Arizona DPS Officer assisting a motorist along the highway. Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Jack Judd, now retired, began this investigation as the responding detective working on this case. Detective Sgt. Judd continued working this case throughout the remainder of his career following up on numerous leads. The investigation passed through many detectives over the years since the initial report and transitioned to cold case detectives when all other leads were exhausted.
Recently, with the assistance of grant funding through NCMEC the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office was able to utilize DNA samples from “Valentine Sally” to complete the familial DNA search for relatives of “Valentine Sally.” This funding from NCMEC allowed for testing through a private vendor that led to the identification of family members. Detectives traveled to the St. Louis area to interview family members. It was found that the family members had a sibling who ran away from home around Christmas time in 1981. Detectives were able to retrieve DNA samples from relatives, which matched the DNA profile from “Valentine Sally.” This ultimately led to confirmation and the positive identification of “Valentine Sally” as Carolyn Eaton.
During the investigation, detectives worked with the St. Louis County Police Department Missing Persons detectives when contacting the family, who lives around the greater St Louis area. Detectives also worked with the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department, Missouri where Carolyn lived before running away around Christmas 1981/New Years of 1982.
Now that the victim has been identified, Detectives are working leads that have been developed to identify any possible suspects. Detectives, along with the Cold Case Squad of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office continue to vigorously work this case. At this time, there are no suspects identified but the case remains under investigation as a homicide.
Sheriff Driscoll wants to thank community members, assisting law enforcement agencies, Sheriff’s staff, and the victim’s family who have worked for so long to identify Carolyn and put some level of closure to this tragic case.
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