Even one unsolved mystery is too many for the families affected, so it's a relief the loved ones of the victims described below got closure — or, at least, a semblance of closure — this year. Of all the cold cases that heated up in 2018, the arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer might have been the biggest coup, but here are other high-profile investigations that yielded answers in recent months…
In 1966, 38-year-old Louise Pietrewicz vanished after emptying her bank account. Police officer William P. Boken, her boyfriend at the time, resigned from his job the day after she was last seen. Boken died in 1982, according to BBC News, but his former wife recently told police he had a body buried in his basement in Southold, NY. And that's where police used ground-penetrating radar to find Pietrewicz's remains buried under seven feet of dirt.
"Sometimes, later in life, witnesses do come forward to give us information that maybe at one point they felt compelled not to release, felt threatened… or just out of their conscience come forward," Suffolk County chief of detectives Gerard Gigante said at a news conference.
17-year-old Mandy Steingasser of North Tonawanda, NY, was last seen in 1993 in the company of her classmate Joseph Belstadt. Her body was found weeks later at Bond Lake Park in Lewiston, NY. Belstadt was the leading suspect since day one, as retired detective Gabriel Di Bernardo told News 4, but it wasn't until this April that authorities got enough forensic evidence to arraign Belstadt on murder charges.
"Poor Mandy was left to die, left to decompose for five weeks at Bond Lake," Di Bernardo said. "What happened to her body should've never happened to any human being. I'm just relieved, finally. I'm just so sorry that it took so long."
In 1981, a Jane Doe murder victim, killed by strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head, was found in a ditch in Troy, OH. She got the nickname "Buckskin Girl" because had been wearing a fringed buckskin jacket. Finally, this April, news broke that authorities had used DNA samples to identify her as Marcia L. King, a 21-year-old from Arkansas.
"Law enforcement never forgets," Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said at a press conference, per the New York Post. "We've had a long journey to where we are today.”
Frankie Welsey McAlister
This January, a 44-year-old named Brian Keith Hawkins walked into the KRCR TV station and confessed to his role in the 1993 stabbing death of Frankie Wesley McAlister in Shingletown, CA. He said he stabbed and robbed siblings alongside Curtis Culver, 45, and Shanna Culver, 46. He was arrested that same day, and the Culver siblings were arrested the day following.
"[Life has been] horrible, horrible, horrible, absolute horror, absolutely horrible since that day," Hawkins told the station. "Every minute of every day has been a nightmare. It's kind of weird: Frank never got to have a life, but we were teenagers and now I'm 44 and still haven't even had a life and now most likely won't anyway."
Christy Sue Piña
Earlier this month, cops finally gained custody the man they had long suspected of raping and murdering 14-year-old Christy Sue Piña in 1990 and leaving her nude body in an artichoke field in Castroville, CA. By the time DNA finally linked Arsenio "Archie” Pacheco Leyva to the crime, he had fled to Mexico, as The Californian reported. Mexican authorities caught up with him in 2014, but it wasn't until this month that he lost his fight against extradition. Now he faces charges of murder, kidnapping, and assault to commit rape.
In 2001, a man was found dead of apparent suicide in a motel room in Amanda Park, WA. He had checked into the motel under the name Lyle Stevik, but his real identity remained a mystery. 16 years later, a crowdfunded organization called the DNA Doe Project contacted the Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Office and offered to try to identify the man, eventually spending hundreds of hours working the case before finally coming up with a possible match this May.
Sheriff's officers then contacted the man's family, who told them they thought "Lyle" was still alive and just didn't want to associate with them. They requested Lyle's real name not be released.
"Cases like these are heartbreaking," said DNA Doe Project co-founder Margaret Press, per KXRO. "During those hundreds of hours, there wasn't one where we didn't all think of the family he left behind. They are what kept us going."
The Golden State Killer
In April, authorities arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo in the infamous Golden State Killer case, a series of 12 murders and 45 rapes in California between 1976 and 1986. Though investigators wouldn't say what led them to suspect DeAngelo, they matched a discarded DNA sample from his home to evidence in the case. Now DeAngelo is being held without bail, charged with murder in eight of the dozen killings.