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Remains of Missing Akron Teen Linda Pagano Identified More Than 40 Years Later

photo of Michael Pagano
WCPN
Linda Pagano's brother, Michael, says he thought he would "die wondering" about his sister.

After four decades, the remains of a missing Akron teen have been identified.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office announced Thursday that it has matched the DNA of living relatives to the body of Linda Pagano.

Pagano disappeared in September of 1974 after an argument with her stepfather about returning home late from a concert. She reportedly left his Akron home to stay with a friend but was never heard from again.

In February of 1975, three teenage boys hiking in what is now the Mill Stream Run Reservation area of the Cleveland Metroparks near Strongsville found skeletal remains on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. It was determined Pagano, then 17, had died from a gunshot wound to the head, and the case was ruled a homicide.

Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson said Thursday a national search was conducted to identify the body, but a connection was never made with the Pagano case until 2016.

photo of Thomas Gilson
Credit WCPN
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WCPN
Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson says a connection was not made until 2016.

In June of that year a public user of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System notified the county medical examiner’s office that her case was missing from the database. By December 2016, a detective at the Akron Police Department had reached out to the office regarding a possible match with its Pagano case.

“I thought I was in a dream,” said Michael Pagano, Linda’s brother, Thursday when asked about his reaction to the finding. “I thought this day would never come. I figured I’d die wondering.”

Because her body was found in a park, the Cleveland Metropark Rangers will now take over the investigation.

“I think that the first step here [was] to positively identify the victim as Linda. So, of course, I would be hopeful, and I think that it’s a possibility, that we could identify a suspect,” Metroparks Ranger Lt. Don Silvas said.

His department will begin with re-interviewing persons connected to the case, but Silvas refused to give any more detail into the active investigation beyond that. Silvas said the stepfather was a person of interest at the time of Pagano’s disappearance, but not a suspect during the original investigation. He has since passed away.

Michael Pagano said Linda and their stepfather were close, and he believes the argument that night was a simple disagreement between a parent and child.