Body burned in dumpster fire 18 years ago has been identified through DNA

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- A woman found in a dumpster burned beyond recognition nearly 20 years ago was identified through DNA evidence Monday, according to the Sacramento Police Department.

The victim has been identified as Perrean Gray, who was 25 years old when she went missing in San Francisco in 2001, according to officials.

Investigators used phenotyping in 2017 to create a more accurate rendition (left) of the victim that matched the positive identification of Perrean Gray in 2019 (right, in an undated photo). (Photos courtesy of the Sacramento Police Department)

Gray's body was found in a dumpster, engulfed in flames on 18th Avenue near Power Inn Road around 5 a.m. on June 29, 2001.

Investigators first thought the body belonged to a 15-to-25-year-old white woman. Deep tissue markers were used by forensic specialist Barbara Anderson to create a reconstruction of what the victim might look like.

"From what the autopsy showed at the time, it was the assumption that she was white or light-skinned from another race," said Sacramento Police Department Officer Linda Matthew.

The initial sketch concept of Jane Doe found burned in a dumpster in 2001 (left). 3-D rendition showing Jane Doe as a white female based on deep tissue markers (right). (Photos courtesy of the Sacramento Police Department)

However, that rendition gave officers no new leads until 2017, when investigators sent degraded DNA evidence to Virginia's Parabon Nanolabs for a new kind of test called phenotyping.

"They're able to predict what someone's physical traits look like, what the shape of their face looks like, even down to eye color, skin color, freckles if you had any," Matthew explained.

Investigators were then able to create a more accurate rendition of the victim, describing the body as belonging to a 25-year-old whose heritage was about 62% West African and 18% Northern European.

Officials said with the help of a private genealogy lab and through DNA testing, detectives were able to determine the body belonged to Gray.

Homicide detectives said they believe Gray's death is related to her disappearance.

The Sacramento Police Department encourages any witnesses with information regarding Gray's death to contact the dispatch center at 916-264-5471 or Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at 916-443-HELP (4357) or submit an anonymous tip using the free “P3 Tips” smartphone app.

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