STEUBEN CO., Ind. (ADAMS) – A nearly two decade old cold case out of Steuben County is making headlines after the victim has finally been identified.
On September 6, 1999 the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a body being discovered lying in a field northeast of Angola, Indiana approximately 2.5 miles east of Interstate 69 and just north of CR 200 N, present day Glendarin Golf Course. The body was determined to have been in the field for approximately 6-8 weeks prior to its discovery.
The body was thought to be a white female approximately 50 years of age, 5’4″ with a medium build. The female had brown hair and a tattoo on her left shoulder depicting a “Pachucco Cross”.
The body was sent to the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana for an autopsy. The cause of death was ruled undetermined but highly suspicious.
The body was later sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia for further testing. A forensic facial sketch was completed from the skull depicting what the female may have looked like. See attached sketch. Since the discovery of the body, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office and Steuben County Coroner’s Office with the assistance of the Indiana State Police and FBI have been attempting to identify the remains.
The Steuben County Sheriff’s Office investigated hundreds of potential leads in an attempt to identify the body without success.
In 2007, DNA was collected from the body and entered into the National Missing Persons DNA Database at the University Of North Texas Science Center. More potential leads were generated, but no identification was made.
In 2018 the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office and Steuben County Coroner’s Office sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs (Parabon), a DNA technology company in Virginia. Law enforcement agencies across the country use the company’s Snapshot DNA Analysis Service (Snapshot) to advance investigations when traditional DNA methods fail to produce a match. The newest Snapshot service offering, genetic genealogy , uses advanced DNA testing in combination with innovative genetic analysis, sophisticated identification techniques and traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and his/her ancestors. For forensic investigations, it is used to generate highly informative leads as to the possible identity of an unknown victim or offender.
The Steuben County Coroner’s Office requested the necessary funding from the Steuben County Council, which they voted on and agreed to provide.
In the investigation of the unidentified body, Parabon submitted a genetic data profile created from a DNA sample taken from the unidentified body by DNA Labs International in Florida. The DNA sample was submitted to a public genetic genealogy database for comparison in hopes of finding individuals who share significant amounts of DNA with the unknown subject. These genetic matches served as clues to inform traditional genealogy research: first, family trees of the matches were constructed back to the set of possible common ancestors using online genealogy databases, newspaper archives, public family trees, obituaries, and other public records, after which descendancy research was employed to enumerate the possible identities of the unknown subject.
Other information, such as age, location, triangulation between matches, and/or ancestry and phenotype (trait) predictions, were used to narrow down the possibilities before a final list of leads was produced. The leads produced, provided the Sheriff’s Office with a family tree dating back to the mid 1800’s and a list of three potential family relatives determined by the genealogist to potentially be the fifth or sixth cousin of the unidentified body.
The Steuben County Sheriff’s Office then used traditional police work to continue the investigation whereupon possible next of kin relatives were identified. Our investigator subsequently contacted these next of kin relatives and obtained further information about family relatives. The investigator obtained a DNA samples from one of them believed to possibly be the sister of the unidentified body. The Indiana State Police Laboratory was unable to make an identification.
The investigator was able to locate a potential daughter of the unidentified body and a DNA sample was collected from her. The Indiana State Police Laboratory confirmed through kinship DNA testing that the newly acquired DNA identified the unidentified body as that of Tina L. Cabanaw, from the Detroit, Michigan area. Tina was reported missing to the Detroit Police Department in July of 1999 and was never located. See attached photograph of Cabanaw.
Steuben County Investigators and the Steuben County Coroner’s Office have contacted the next of kin and notified them of the identification. As a result of the identification, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office is continuing the investigation of Cabanaw’s death. Anybody with information regarding this case should contact the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at 260-668-4646 or Crime Stoppers at 260-668-STOP.