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Jerome García January 2, 2024 3 min read
Missing Lake Tahoe Casino Nurse Identified after 50 Years
The recently identified victim, who went missing back in 1970 may have been linked to the infamous Zodiac killer
A cold case dating back more than half a century helped identify a victim who went missing back in 1970. The victim, named Donna Lass, went missing from Sahara Hotel Casino, now known as the Golden Nugget Lake Tahoe, located in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The 25-year-old casino nurse was last seen in September 1970 and her case was left unresolved for many years due to missing and insufficient evidence.
According to the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, remains of Lass were found in Placer County back in 1986. Those remains included the victim’s skull which was found by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office near Interstate 80. Lass’ case was filed as Jane Doe, considering that no additional evidence was uncovered, and the remains could not be identified.
Last week, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that after the remains of the victim were preserved for years, a cold case team was able to identify that those remains belonged to Lass. The advancement of forensic technology helped identify the victim, despite her disappearance more than 50 years ago and the cold trail that didn’t link to any evidence or suspects.
In light of the discovery, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department contacted Lass’ surviving family members with hopes that this would bring them closure. To identify the victim, the Placer County District Attorney’s Office sent the remains to the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services. There, DNA extracted from the remains was matched with DNA from a member of Lass’ family that was obtained by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.
“We are extremely grateful that this team effort was able to bring closure to the Lass family and are hopeful that cold case detectives can continue to make advances in these cases. South Lake Tahoe PD will be continuing to look into any future leads on this case,“reads a statement released by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office
Links to the Zodiac Killer
Neither the Placer County Sheriff’s Office nor the South Lake Tahoe Police Department confirmed links between the aforementioned case and the infamous serial killer who terrorized northern California back in the 1960s known as the Zodiac killer. However, media reports have speculated that Lass may have been one of the victims of the ruthless murderer.
While the Zodiac killer officially has five confirmed victims, he claimed to have killed more than 30 people in total. The serial killer has been wanted since 1968 but communication with him ceased around 1974. Gaining notoriety, the Zodiac killer was known for his messages that mocked law enforcement and included ciphers and cryptograms, that allegedly hinted at details about his victims.
Throughout the years, some cold cases were linked to victims of the Zodiac killer outside California. Despite the identification of Donna Lass, it is currently unclear whether or not her disappearance and subsequent death were related in any way to the infamous serial killer.