Prince William County police identified a Takoma Park woman after skeletal remains that were found in 1982 were just matched to her DNA, police announced Wednesday. The case is now considered a homicide.
Cynthia Joan Gastelle had been reported missing from Takoma Park on April 3 1980. The case went cold.
Remains were found nearly two years later on Feb. 12, 1982 on Bull Run Mountain off of Mountain Road in the Haymarket area of Prince William County and on May 10, 2012 the DNA was matched to Gastelle.
Police in Prince William County are investigating Gastelle's death as a homicide and seeking the public's help in their investigation, police said in a press conference Wednesday. They are looking to talk to people who may have known Gastelle or seen her the day she went missing.
In particular, they are looking to speak with Gastelle's on-and-off-again boyfriend at the time (photo of the man with longer hair and sunglasses). Police said he is not a suspect, but they are interested in speaking with him.
Gastelle was reported missing by her father on April 3, 1980 to the Takoma Park Police Department, which is also involved in the investigation. She had left the home she shared with her father and stepmother that morning to catch a ride-on bus for a series of job interviews.
Family members say Gastelle, who was 18 years old at the time she disappeared, must have made it to at least one of her interviews that day because her father received a call from a delicatessen in the Silver Spring-area of Maryland the same day, saying she had gotten the job.
Police believe Gastelle was brought to Prince William County from Maryland, because she had no known ties to the area. Her remains were discovered about a mile off Route 15 in Haymarket at the intersection of Enfield Chase Court and Mountain Road on what was then private property and a desolate, wooded area. The area is now a subdivision and has seen significant development since Gastelle's remains were located.
As a result, police are encouraging anyone with information about the case or who may have known Gastelle or her boyfriend (see attached photo) at the time to come forward. They are looking to speak with anyone who may have seen Gastelle the day she disappeared. Prince William County Public Information Officer Jonathan Perok said any tip, no matter how small in detail, could help solve the case.
Prince William County police Detective Brian Coady with the Cold Case Homicide Unit said it wasn't until 2011 when DNA was collected from Gastelle's family as part of an investigation into another unrelated missing person case in Virginia that they were able to match it with the mitochondria DNA collected from the crime scene.
Prince William County Police were notified in May 2012 of a DNA match from the family DNA submissions to the Gastelle's skeletal remains found in 1982, but said they have always treated the case as a homicide, because "there's evidence that it's a murder case."
Gastelle's family members spoke at the press conference Wednesday at Prince William Police headquarters in Manassas and said they had held out hope all these years Gastelle would be found alive, but said they always knew there was the possibility she wouldn't be.
The family now has some closure, but are still reminded of another tragedy found out through the investigation into Gastelle's disappearance all these years: how many missing person cases there are.
"Our grief is seconded by finding out how many thousands of missing persons there are in our region," said Pete Gastelle, Gastelle's brother. "No other family should go through what our family has had to go through. Please be kind to each other and look out for each other. That's what Cindy [Cynthia] would want."
Anyone with information relating to this case is asked to call Crime Solvers at 703-670-3700 or 1-866-411-TIPS. You don’t have to give your name, just the information. You could earn up to a $1,000 cash reward.