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Police release new sketch of '82 homicide victim

Saturday - 6/2/2012, 6:00am  ET

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Commonly referred to as 'the woman in the trunk,' the woman is still unidentified, and detectives are searching for her family. (Photo Courtesy of Frederick Police Department)
FREDERICK - The Frederick Police Department on Friday released a new digital image of a woman who was found dead in a steamer trunk nearly 30 years ago.

Commonly referred to as "the woman in the trunk," the woman is still unidentified, and detectives are searching for her family.

Detectives are asking for the public's help, according to a news release. Next month marks the 30th anniversary of the case.

"We felt now was the time to get a separate version of what she may have looked like," said Lt. Clark Pennington, police spokesman.

The latest image released by the agency Friday is one of three sketches drawn since the woman's body was found. A sketch released in the 1980s depicts a woman with thick eyebrows, wide eyes and heavy bangs.

Another drawing released in the early 1990s features a woman with short hair, thin lips and a slightly wrinkled brow. Those images are posted on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website.

Pennington said the latest image will be added to the National Unidentified Persons System -- a database designed to help law enforcement agencies with cases that involve unidentified human remains.

"We think it's pretty good," Pennington said of the image.

Several months ago, the police department asked Sgt. Don Stahl of the Charles County Sheriff's Office to assist in a facial reconstruction.

His version of "the woman in the trunk" features a woman with a thin face, long hair and a curved nose. He also provided the agency with a profile of the woman that displays her jawline and bone structure.

Stahl said a photo of the woman's skull helped him create the image, but the police department had some input, too.

They asked Stahl to draw the woman with her hair in a ponytail because an early investigation revealed the woman was athletic, Pennington said.

"It's a gamble to make assumptions like that, but it's that kind of information that could spark recognition," Stahl said Friday. He used an electronic tablet and Photoshop to create the image.

For more than a decade, Stahl has helped police agencies throughout the state. Detectives hope his latest image sheds new light on the cold case, Pennington said.

"Sgt. Stahl is highly skilled in forensic reconstruction of skeletal remains and was able to examine the remains and provide digital pictures of what the victim may have looked like at the time of her discovery," the department said in a news release.

On Aug. 24, 1982, a couple searching for mushrooms in the Frederick City Watershed spotted a steamer trunk off the road. Police found a body inside. Detectives said the trunk contained skeletal remains of a white woman with dark hair between 18 and 25 years old.

Detectives concluded that in this case, the woman had undergone extensive dental procedures, some of which are consistent with those performed by dental students.

Her teeth were put into an online database in an effort to help solve the case.

Police are hoping that the new digital image will lead to fresh developments, Police Chief Kim Dine said during a previous interview.

"We have hundreds of open cases. Not all cases get equal attention. ... The key is managing the cases," Dine said.

The police department has at least 11 open homicide investigations, according to the agency's website.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to call Detective Curt Lege at 301-600-3918. To leave an anonymous tip, call 301-600-TIPS.