Murder of Mary Silvani
|Intro||Formerly an unidentified murder victim for 37 years who was named in May 2019, as was her killer|
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||29 September 1948, Pontiac, USA|
|Death||17 July 1982 (aged 33 years)|
Mary Edith Silvani (September 29, 1948 – July 17, 1982), known as "Sheep Flats Jane Doe" and "Washoe County Jane Doe" while still an unidentified homicide victim, was a woman found shot to death near Lake Tahoe in Washoe County, Nevada in July 1982. She was unidentified for 37 years and it was considered a cold case. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office announced her identity on May 7, 2019, and said that Silvani was identified through DNA analysis and genetic genealogy, with assistance from the DNA Doe Project and GEDmatch.
The Sheriff's Office said that her murderer had been confirmed as serial killer James Richard Curry. He had also been identified in the Silvani case through DNA analysis and genetic genealogy.
Born in Pontiac, Michigan, Silvani was 33 when she was killed. She was the only daughter of John and Blanche Silvani, and had two brothers.
The body of a woman aged between 25 and 35 was found by hikers on July 17, 1982 in Sheep Flats, a popular hiking area in Washoe County, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe. The woman had been sexually assaulted and shot in the back of the head as she was bending over, possibly to tie her shoes. The bullet hole on her head had been covered with men's underwear.
The victim wore a light yellow pair of tennis shoes, a sleeveless blue shirt, Lee brand jeans with a blue bikini bottom in the pocket and a blue swimsuit underneath. The shirt had been sold at stores in California, Washington and Oregon.
At her autopsy, a vaccination scar was located on her left arm, and another on her abdomen, possibly from a Caesarean section. In addition, one of her toenails had a large bruise underneath. The woman had hazel eyes, was around five feet five inches in height, weighed 112 pounds, and had brown hair tied back in a bun.
Her last meal was a salad. She was originally believed to be from Europe, due to the nature of an inoculation scar on her arm and her dental work. An independent dental examination in 2010 discredited this original assumption.
She was dressed for a day at the lake: jeans and t-shirt over a blue bathing suit. Close forensic inspection helped police determine the t-shirt was sold only on the West Coast, leading investigators to believe she may have visited or had been residing in one of the western states before her murder.
She was buried at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Cemetery in Reno, Nevada.
In February 2018, a Washoe County forensic investigator went to a lecture on forensic genealogy by Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick. With the thought that this could aid in solving cold cases, the county contracted with the DNA Doe Project and Identifinders International for assistance in identifying Sheep Flats Jane Doe and her killer.
In July 2018, the Washoe County Sheriff's Office announced that the victim had been tentatively identified. In September her identity was confirmed, but the police withheld it due to their open homicide investigation. Her identity as Mary Edith Silvani was announced on May 7, 2019.
Mary Edith Silvani was born in Pontiac, Michigan on September 29, 1948, and grew up in Detroit. She had two brothers, Bob and Charles, both of whom are deceased. Nancy Cumming, a friend from her high school days has published several photos of her when she was 19 and her bridesmaid. Another classmate Paula Headley, said Silvani had an affinity for art and reading, used to go down to the DIA a lot, was quiet and kind hearted, and never talked about her family.
The 1966 Mackenzie High School yearbook has a photo of her, but the school has no record of her graduating, and she did not have a senior photo taken. After her father died when she was 16, she became homeless. Her mother had left her when she was a child and spent much of her life in mental institutions; relatives say she died in 1980. Silvani's closest living relative is believed to be her nephew, Robert Silvani Jr., who never met her. She had a child which she gave up for adoption about 1972.
Silvani moved to California sometime between 1974 and 1982, but investigators have been unable to locate anyone who knew her.
Both Silvani and the man believed to have killed her, James Richard Curry, were identified by Cheryl Hester using forensic genetic genealogy techniques, making this the first known case in which both victim and perpetrator were identified this way. Silvani's identity was further confirmed through a fingerprint kept on file by the Detroit Police Department, who had arrested her in 1974 for loitering (a misdemeanor).
Curry was arrested in January 1983 as a suspect in another murder. He confessed to two more murders to police. He committed suicide in the Santa Clara County, California jail a day after his arrest. He is a suspect in a fourth murder.
As of May 2019, Silvani's case is considered closed.