Remains found during community cleanup identified as teen reported missing in 1972

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Dna test in the lab. a laboratory technician with a dispenser in his hands is conducting dna analysis in a sterile laboratory
Dna test in the lab. a laboratory technician with a dispenser in his hands is conducting dna analysis in a sterile laboratory

FREEHOLD, NJ – Officials have identified the body of a girl who was reported missing in 1972 after her remains were found during a neighborhood cleanup nearly 35 years ago.

On Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972, 16-year-old Nancy Carol Fitzgerald sat down for dinner with her family in North Jersey.

“Following an intensive long-term investigation involving numerous interviews and extensive DNA analysis, human remains recovered near the Henry Hudson Bike Trail in Atlantic Highlands in 1988 have now been positively identified as belonging to Nancy – although precisely how and why she died still remains unknown,” the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said.

“Today’s announcement marks the culmination of decades of hard work by a network of individuals whose collective determination and ingenuity proved inexhaustible,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago said. “In addition to being a testament to their efforts, it’s also reflective of our firm commitment to uncover the truth and serve the interests of justice, regardless of how much time has passed or what investigative obstacles might ever stand in the way.”


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Fitzgerald’s family was living in a home on Mohr Avenue in Bloomfield (Essex County) at the time of her disappearance, having moved there from a home on Crown Street in Bloomfield about three years earlier. She is known to have attended Bloomfield’s Berkeley Elementary School and North Junior High School (today Bloomfield Middle School).

Police matched DNA to a family member and used that DNA to find the victim’s sister in Pennsylvania. A positive DNA match confirmed the identity of the body.

Fitzgerald’s known surviving relatives were notified. Her remains will be turned over to the family for burial.