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Bodies exhumed in hopes of solving mysterious deaths of 2 women in 1960s

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 12:31:19 PM CST
Updated On: Oct 29 2013 11:44:21 AM CDT

The clues to solving a decades-old murder mystery could be buried six feet under.

CUMRU TWP., Pa. -

The clues to solving a decades-old murder mystery could be buried six feet under.

The Berks County coroner began the process of exhuming the bodies of two women from the county's old potter's field in Cumru Township on Monday.

The two women, originally from Philadelphia, mysteriously died more than four decades ago. The women went missing in 1968, and officials believe they were murdered in Berks County.

"Based on the investigation that was conducted from the beginning of this, it appears they knew each other," said Tpr. Robert Hess, Pa. State Police.

According to the coroner, one of the unidentified women was found off Route 82 in Caernarvon Township. Her death was ruled a homicide.

"There were gunshot wounds to the abdomen and chest and one shot to the head," said Dennis Hess, the Berks County coroner.

Nearly one year later and four miles away, skeletal remains of the second woman were found in French Creek State Park. Her death is listed as undetermined, but the coroner believes it is also a homicide.

Officials said the women, in their late teens to early 20s, were killed around the same time.

"The piece of the puzzle for both girls was they each had the exact same sandals on," Dennis Hess said.

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On Monday, a forensic anthropologist began the painstaking process of digging deep down to unearth new clues in the potter's field. An old map showed where the women were believed to be buried.

Pieces of a deteriorated coffin were found, but it was ruled the remains were of an older man.

On a second attempt, the coroner said he was confident they found the remains of the woman who was found in 1969.

Officials said the process could take three to four days, and they're hoping to extract DNA to match the girls with their families and solve these homicides. The DNA will be sent to Texas to be tested.

"If we can find these bones, we can identify the girls, or we can rule these two families out from Philadelphia," said Tpr. Hess.

Officials with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are paying for the exhumation. Two detectives from the Philadelphia Police Department's special victim's unit were also present.

The exhumation will continue Tuesday morning.