Body of woman found in Steuben County in 1999 identified

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STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – After nearly 20 years, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department identified a woman found dead in a field northeast of Angola.

She has been identified as Tina L. Cabanaw.

On September 6, 1999, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office received the report of a body being discovered in the field, about 2.5 miles east of I-69, and just north of CR 200 N. The location is the present day Glendarin Golf Course.

The Sheriff’s Office says the body had been in the field for approximately 6-8 weeks before being discovered.

Investigators believed the body was of a white woman, approximately 50-years-old, 5’4” with a medium build. She had brown hair, and a tattoo on her left shoulder depicting a “Pachucco Cross.”

The woman’s body was sent to the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center in Fort Wayne for an autopsy. Her cause of death was ruled undetermined, but highly suspicious.

The body was later sent to an FBI lab in Virginia for further testing. A forensic facial sketch was completed of what the woman may have looked like.

Forensic facial sketch of unidentified woman

Since the woman’s body was discovered, multiple law enforcement agencies have attempted to identify her.  The Steuben County Sheriff’s Office investigated hundreds of potential leads to identify her, but all efforts lead to no success.

In 2007, DNA was collected from the body, and entered into the National Missing Persons DNA Database. This garnered more leads, but no identification was made.

In 2018, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office and Steuben County Coroner’s Office reached out to the Parabon NanoLabs for additional services. The Sherriff’s Office says law enforcement agencies from across the country use the company’s Snapshot DNA Analysis to advance investigations when traditional DNA methods fail to produce a match.

To utilize this service, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office asked for funding from the Steuben County Council, they voted on it and agreed to provide the money.

“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.”

-Steuben County Sheriff’s Office

Other information was used to narrow down the possibilities before a final list of leads was created. That list 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. That person was potentially a fifth or sixth cousin of the unidentified woman.

Traditional police work continued in the investigation, where the next of kin relatives were identified. An investigator obtained a DNA samples from the believed family member, that might be the unidentified woman’s sister.

The Indiana State Police Laboratory was unable to make an identification.

This lead the investigator to locate a potential daughter of the unidentified woman, and a DNA sample was collected. The ISP lab confirmed their relationship through kinship DNA testing, and they were able to identify the woman as Tina L. Cabanaw, from the Detroit, Michigan area.

Cabanaw was reported missing to the Detroit Police Department in July of 1999, and was never located.

Steuben County Investigators and the Steuben County Coroner’s Office has notified the family of the identification.

However, the death of Cabanaw continues to be investigated. 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.

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