ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Just a few days after WCCO-TV aired a story in May 2013 about the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s DNA laboratory, a family in Texas came forward.

They’d seen the report on this website and wanted to get in touch with the BCA to inquire about the unsolved missing persons cases.

Relatives would soon provide DNA cheek swabs to the lab in St. Paul in hopes it would someday help find their loved one who had disappeared back in June 1985.

On Wednesday, Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson told reporters that one of his off duty employees was working with dogs in the park last spring when they came upon what appeared to be a human skull and other co-mingled bones in a remote part of the park.

“Her body wasn’t buried in the park, it was the years of debris since 1985 that covered up her remains,” Johnson said.

An autopsy concluded they were indeed human bones, and fractures on the skull indicated head trauma was the cause of death.

DNA was extracted from the bones by the BCA’s lab in St. Paul, and the profile was placed into a national missing persons DNA data base.

“In August 2014, the BCA matched DNA from those remains to the DNA from one family member who provided a sample in late 2013. Further testing from an additional family member confirmed a match,” said the BCA’s Forensic Science Services Director Catherine Knutson.

DNA testing confirmed the identity of the bones as those of then 19-year-old Cassandra Rhines of Minneapolis.

According to family members, Rhines was supposed to attend her goddaughter’s birthday party in June 1985 but was never seen.

Rhines was last known to be living in an apartment building at 27th Street and Grand Avenue South. The building is near Whittier Park and appears much the same as it did back in 1985.

Drew Evans, the assistant superintendent of the BCA, is now asking for the public’s help to solve the decades-old homicide.

“Anybody who lived in that apartment building or may have known her at that time or had contact with her should come forward. Because we’re trying to piece together her life in an effort to determine who may have had contact with her,” he said.

Investigators are especially interested in finding the man seen posing with Rhines in a photograph. They believe the man may have possibly shared an apartment with the 19-year-old.

With her identity now known, a homicide investigation is underway in a push to find a killer.

Anyone with information about Rhines is urged to contact the Lake County Sheriff’s Office at 218-834-8385 or the BCA at 651-793-7000, or via email at bca.coldcase@state.mn.us.

Information can also be sent using a BCA tip form.

Tips can be anonymous.

Bill Hudson

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