After 30 very long years, the body of 17-year-old girl dumped on the side of Interstate 65 in Indiana finally has a name.
Margaret Ann Sniegowski Jr. was the youngest of eight siblings and disappeared in 1992 from her Ohio home. Genetic testing over several years resulted in the identification of her remains, authorities announced this week.
“She was not trash,” her older brother, Lenny Sniegowski through tears at a Wednesday press conference. “We’re not quitters. We did not have a funeral. I travel all over the world now and I always thought maybe I would run into my sister.”
The girl’s body, face down in a watery ditch clad only in a halter top and green anklet socks, was discovered by a local farmer plowing his property. Authorities at the time said she had been dead for several days.
“He found my little sister on the side of the highway discarded like a piece of trash,” said Sniegowski. “She’s no longer that. My family is grateful for everyone that looked, worried, searched, cared and cried for my little sister over these years as if she was your own little sister.”
The family has no idea how Maggie, as she was known, ended up in central Indiana, more than 200 miles from her home in northern Ohio. She was still in high school and nothing had been taken from her room when she went missing, her brother said.
The case had stumped Boone County authorities for years. The body had badly decomposed in the water where it was found. Investigators believed she had been strangled, but autopsies could not determine a cause of death. She was buried in a pauper’s grave and twice exhumed by authorities determined to find some clue as to who she had been.
“It’s always haunted me,” Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen told the Indianapolis Star after the second exhumation. “The disrespect of whoever did this to throw her, like a piece of trash and, second, that we’ve never been able to identify her.”
“We will now focus on finding her killer and working hard to find out who dumped her body along an on-ramp on I-65,” Nielsen said at Wednesday’s news conference.
Last year, her skeletal remains were transferred to Othram, a firm specializing in DNA analysis of trace quantities of degraded or contaminated forensic evidence. From there, investigators spent weeks combing online genetic databases, trying to match the DNA results to possible relatives.
Eventually, Boone County authorities were able to match their results to those of Sniegowski’s sister, who had posted her genetic data to an ancestry site, trying to construct a family tree.
“If you think there’s a possibility that someone is still alive or maybe died a long time ago and you just don’t know about it, then do this,” Nielsen said. “Go submit your DNA, put it into that database and help solve these crimes.”
Maggie’s brother issued a warning to his sister’s killer.
“Now the work begins to find the lowlife or people who did this. Anybody who knows my family knows we don’t forget. These guys are coming after ya,” he said. “She was not trash. She was a beautiful loving upbeat person who didn’t deserve her fate.”