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Identity of ‘Valentine Sally’ confirmed, solving 4-decade-old Arizona mystery

Facial reconstruction of "Valentine Sally," whose body was found on Feb. 14, 1982, on an Arizona highway. On Feb. 22, 2021, the Coconino County Sheriff's Office said investigators had confirmed her identity as Carolyn Eaton of Missouri. (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

PHOENIX – The mystery of “who is ‘Valentine Sally?’” has been solved through DNA evidence nearly 40 years after her body was found on the side of an Arizona freeway.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that Valentine Sally was determined to be a 17-year-old from Missouri named Carolyn Eaton.

The case began on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) 1982, when the decayed body was found on Interstate 40 west of Williams.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, she’d died about two weeks earlier of an unknown cause.

A person matching the victim’s description was seen with a man about 60 years old at a truck stop 15 miles from where the body was discovered 10 days later, according to NCMEC. The man was never identified or located.

The case eventually wound up in the hands of cold case detectives.

A familial DNA search recently was done on samples from the victim, which matched her to family members in St. Louis, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.

Family members confirmed that Carolyn Eaton had run away around Christmas time in 1981 and was indeed Valentine Sally, according to the release.

The sheriff’s office said detectives will now work to find a suspect in the case.

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