Skull found along Lake Tahoe highway has finally been linked to woman who disappeared in 1970

BySarah Engel, CNN
Friday, December 29, 2023
Skull found along CA highway linked to woman who disappeared in 1970
Human remains found decades ago near Lake Tahoe, California have finally been identified as missing nurse Donna Lass.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- Human remains found decades ago near Lake Tahoe have finally been identified as missing nurse Donna Lass.

Lass was 25 years old when she was reported missing to South Lake Tahoe Police in 1971, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post. Lass was last seen on September 7, 1970, walking with a young blonde man outside her apartment, according to a local newspaper clipping posted by the sheriff's office.

"The investigative leads surrounding the disappearance of Lass were exhausted and the case remained unsolved," the sheriff's office said. That is, until an unidentified human skull was found off of Highway 20 near Interstate 80, close to Lake Tahoe, in 1986.

In the decades since, the skull was kept preserved at the Placer County Coroner's Office.

A cold case team was recently established by the Placer County Sheriff's Office and the district attorney's office to allocate "additional resources to assist in the investigation of unsolved missing persons and suspicious death cases." The team recently sent the skull to the California Department of Justice for DNA testing.

"The California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services was able to match the DNA of the skull with the DNA from a member of Donna Lass's family which was obtained by South Lake Tahoe Police Department for their missing persons case," the sheriff's office said. "This allowed them to identify the skull as the remains of Donna Lass."

South Lake Tahoe Police Department notified Lass' surviving relatives last week that she had been located.

"We are extremely grateful that this team effort was able to bring closure to the Lass family and are hopeful that cold case detectives can continue to make advances in these cases," the Placer County Sheriff's Office said.

Lass' cause of death is unknown.

South Lake Tahoe police are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information related to the case to contact detectives at cybertips@cityofslt.us.

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