Cold Case: Police identify body found in San Francisco in 1976 as missing 14-year-old girl

Bay Area

New Jersey State Police

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The San Francisco Police Department, with the help of investigators in New Jersey, positively identified a body discovered more than 40 years ago in Lake Merced, authorities announced Thursday.

On Oct. 1, 1976, a man walking near a pumping station at Lake Merced in San Francisco noticed a hand in the sand.

For the next 43 years, the identity of the young girl found in the sand at Lake Merced remained unknown — until a break in the case when the girl’s brother reported her as missing to San Francisco police.

During the investigation, police say they found information that linked the body found at Lake Merced to the missing persons case of Judy Gifford, 14.

Police later learned the teen had an aunt in New Jersey.

Investigators also obtained photos of the girl wearing a gold chain and owl necklace — jewelry that was found on the unidentified body found in 1976.

In June 2019, police gathered DNA from the girl’s aunt — eventually connecting the unidentified remains found in Lake Merced to Gifford.

The girl’s body was formally identified as Gifford in November of this year.

The girl’s aunt, Ogee Gifford, who lives in South Hampton, New Jersey, still has the same phone number — decades later, in case her niece ever called, according to New Jersey State Police.

The missing persons case is now closed, but police say the homicide case remains unsolved.

Those with information on the Gifford’s disappearance or death are asked to contact San Francisco police at 1-415-575-4444.

Tips and information can be reported anonymously, the department said.

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