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September 23, 2018

DNA Links Body Found Near Oswego With Girl’s Disappearance 28 Years Ago


Officials of two police agencies hold a news conference to announce the resolution of a 28 year old disappearance case.  From left are: Charles Cohen, Amherst Police Department, Gene Sullivan, Undersheriff, Oswego County Sheriff's Department; Enzio Villalta, Captain, Amherst Police Department; and Joe LaCorte, Det. Lt., Amherst Police Department.  Photo special to Oswego County Today.com by Jim Smerecak.

Officials of two police agencies hold a news conference to announce the resolution of a 28 year old disappearance case. From left are: Charles Cohen, Amherst Police Department, Gene Sullivan, Undersheriff, Oswego County Sheriff’s Department; Enzio Villalta, Captain, Amherst Police Department; and Joe LaCorte, Det. Lt., Amherst Police Department. Photo special to Oswego County Today.com by Jim Smerecak.

Nancy Scamurra, as she appeared at age 14 in 1984.

Nancy Scamurra, as she appeared at age 14 in 1984.

AMHERST, NY — Two longstanding mysteries ended Friday morning, as Oswego County Undersheriff Gene Sullivan stood at a podium in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst.

There, he and the Amherst Chief of Police announced that the body found washed ashore on July 14, 1984 near Oswego was that of a teenaged girl who stormed out of her home in Amherst two weeks before.

Nancy Scamurra, police said, argued with someone in her home on July 1 and walked out.  She was never seen again.  She left no clues behind, nothing to suggest that she had run away from home.

Police assumed, eventually, that she’d been killed.  They were right.

A man fishing near Oswego Harbor found a body 14 days later.

“She was murdered, dismembered, decapitated and disposed of,” Sullivan said at the news conference. “What we found was a torso, and through that we were able to identify the fact that the victim was a female. But that was it.”

Amherst Police Capt. Enzio Villalta said, “The girl had no dental records or medical records. She had never been to a dentist in her life. And there was nothing to compare it against even if there had been. There were no fingerprints.”

And at the time, there was no DNA testing.

Oswego County Undersheriff Gene Sullivan makes a point at a news conference in Amherst announcing the identification of a torso found in Lake Ontario in 1984. Photo specially for Oswego County Today by Jim Smerecak.

Oswego County Undersheriff Gene Sullivan makes a point at a news conference in Amherst announcing the identification of a torso found in Lake Ontario in 1984. Photo specially for Oswego County Today by Jim Smerecak.

For years, Oswego County Sheriff’s investigators would compare the torso to cases of missing women, in hopes of finding a match.  It was a fruitless search.

Several years ago, with DNA testing finally available, the department asked the FBI to take a sample of the torso’s remains.  The DNA was then compared to cases on file in the federal database.

Late last year, the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s office asked the department to compare the DNA to Scamurra.  It was a routine shot-in-the-dark, an attempt to make a match.  It appears police in Amherst never knew about the body in Oswego.

Investigators got DNA samples from the missing girl’s family.  Those samples made the final connection:  the headless torso fished from the water near Oswego was the girl who disappeared in Amherst.

The discovery cleared up two mysteries, but left a third:  Who killed Nancy Scamurra?

“We know there are people out there with information concerning Nancy’s disappearance and murder,” Sullivan said. “We’re looking at everything. We’re not closing off any avenue. We’re not turning down any leads or discounting anything or any information that anyone might have. Everything’s on the table.”

Police have set up a special e-mail address for tips: [email protected] People can also call the Sheriff’s Department at 1-888-349-3411.

In a news release announcing the discovery, Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd asked people to remember that Scamurra was a teenager with her whole life ahead of her.  “Her life, with all of its potential, was cut short,” he said.  “It is our intent to solve this case and bring justice for Nancy.”

One Response “DNA Links Body Found Near Oswego With Girl’s Disappearance 28 Years Ago”

  1. Gloria
    July 26, 2012 at 2:37 am

    Between the Oswego Sheriff’s Department and the Amherst Police Department someone “dropped the ball” and didn’t do their job in a thorough enough fashion. I’m leaning on the former. Otherwise, this crime might have been solved already. “It appears police in Amherst never knew about the body in Oswego.” Read the initial story of 1984. When the body was found, every police department in New York State should have been notified. Crimes were solved before DNA.
    What happened to this teenager is gut wrenching and sickening. I pray the the person/s who committed this crime will be caught and get their just punishment.
    On a personal note, I was living in Onondaga County near Oswego County in 1984 and I currently live in Amherst so this story makes me nauseous.

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