ANGOLA — The Steuben County Sheriff’s Office has renewed its investigation into how a woman’s body ended up presumably dumped in Steuben County in 1999, a news release Sunday said.
Using a combination of DNA information and traditional police work by Sheriff’s Detective Chris Emerick, police determined the identity of the woman as being Tina L. Cabanaw, 36, of the Detroit area.
Final determination of the identity was made through a DNA match with Cabanaw’s daughter, Jessica Gallegos, 36, of Colorado, after testing done in May.
“This step breathes a new life into the investigation, allowing us to have a starting point now rather than a whole basket of unknowns,” Sheriff R.J. Robinson said this morning. “Let’s not forget the bigger picture that there is a much larger investigation, which now has some direction that will hopefully conclude in finding out what happened to her.”
On Sept. 6, 1999, the Sheriff’s Office received a report of a body being discovered lying in a field northeast of Angola, approximately 2.5 miles east of Interstate 69 and just north of East C.R. 200N, present day Glendarin Golf Course. The body was determined to have been in the field for approximately 6-8 weeks prior to its discovery.
“Since the discovery of the body, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office and Steuben County Coroner’s Office with the assistance of the Indiana State Police and FBI have been attempting to identify the remains,” the news release said. “The Steuben County Sheriff’s Office investigated hundreds of potential leads in an attempt to identify the body without success.”
While the Sheriff’s Office and Steuben County Coroner Bill Harter are pleased with their success in using DNA technology and traditional police work, they have renewed their search for the why of this unsolved death investigation, Robinson said. Since Day 1, the case has been ruled a highly suspicious death of undetermined cause and it is not closed.
Cabanaw had brown hair and a tattoo on her left shoulder depicting a “pachucco cross.” It was that cross that was confirmed by a nephew of Cabanaw that eventually led to Gallegos and the eventual 99.99 percent DNA match to confirm her identity.
Since the discovery of the body, the Sheriff’s Office and Coroner’s Office with the assistance of the Indiana State Police and FBI have been attempting to identify the remains. The Sheriff’s Office investigated hundreds of potential leads in an attempt to identify the body without success. National missing persons databases were also employed.
After the Steuben County Council approved funding for highly scientific DNA analysis in August 2018, the services of Parabon NanoLabs in Virginia and DNA Labs International in Florida were employed to provide some leads.
The Sheriff’s Office then used traditional police methods to eventually lead to Cabanaw’s daughter in Colorado, who provided a 99.99% match through DNA analysis.
As a result of the identification, the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office is continuing the investigation of Cabanaw’s death. Anybody with information regarding this case should contact the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at 260-668-4646 or Crime Stoppers at 260-668-STOP.