Remains found in 1997 identified as missing Aurora woman

After more than a quarter of a century, skeletal remains found in a Will County landfill have been identified as those of a missing Aurora woman.

Marie R. O'Brien, who had not been seen or heard from by family since 1984, was identified through DNA testing following an investigation by the Will County Coroner's Cold Case Division, the county sheriff's office and a private laboratory, officials said.

The investigation began when a University of Illinois archaeologist found a human bone on May 13, 1997, while working a construction landfill in Rockdale, authorities said. More human skeletal fragments were discovered by sheriff's crime scene investigators among construction debris, which consisted of brick, stone and wood.

The source of the debris was determined to be the Rust Craft building in Joliet, which opened in 1907, was abandoned in 1986 and largely destroyed by fire in 1992, according to the coroner's office.

Excess debris was removed, while the rest was used to fill the basement. Three years later, the basement was excavated and removed to Rockdale. It was in that debris that the bones were found.

The coroner's office said a special FBI unit completed facial cranial reconstruction from the remains, which resulted in a number of leads but not an identification.

In 2021, Coroner Laurie Summers partnered with ]Texas-based Othram Inc., which developed a DNA profile of the remains and submitted it to a family tree database, which narrowed down leads, authorities said.

Cold case investigators then interviewed several people in Illinois, Texas and California, leading to the brother of the woman, who said he had last had contact with her in 1984. Testing indicated they were half-siblings.

The coroner said O'Brien's cause of death is undetermined. The coroner and the sheriff will continue to investigate.

Will County Coroner Laurie Summers
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