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'Christy Crystal Creek' remains identified after 36 years

'Christy Crystal Creek' remains identified after 36 years

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Janet Lee Lucas

Janet Lee Lucas, pictured here, was last seen in the summer of 1983. 

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Monday press release the remains of “Christy Crystal Creek” have been identified as 23-year-old Janet Lee Lucas.

Lucas’ remains were found 36 years ago when a bear hunter came across the skeletonized remains near Crystal Creek in September 1985, the release said. After an investigation, work with forensic specialists and hours spent searching missing persons databases, the remains could not be identified and became known as "Christy Crystal Creek."

Earlier this year, the sheriff’s cold case unit partnered with Othram labs, which conducted an advanced DNA analysis and allowed the sheriff’s office to start a forensic genealogy investigation into the case, the release said. After weeks of genealogy research, officials were able to identify relatives through DNA and family trees, leading them to Lucas’ family in Spokane.

After interviews and confirming DNA test results of relatives, the sheriff’s office was able to identify the remains as Lucas.

Because Lucas’ remains were found nearby the site of Debbie Deer Creek's remains, the cold case unit is reviewing evidence and reports related to serial killer Wayne Nance to see if there is a possible link between the two cases. 

The Debbie Deer Creek remains were identified in 2006 as Marcella Cheri Bachman, who was killed by Nance in 1984.

“We cannot rest on our success of having finally identified Janet. We must now seek justice for Janet,” Detective Captain Dave Conway said in the release. “‘Our focus has changed from ‘who is Christy Crystal Creek?’ to ‘what happened to Janet Lucas?’ This is now a cold case homicide investigation and we need your help.”

There are no records of Lucas living or spending time in Montana, according to the release.

“We are sharing her picture, taken in 1979, in hopes of finding anyone who may have known or seen Janet in Missoula in the summer of 1983 and into 1984,” the release said.

After speaking with family and friends, officials determined Lucas was last seen in the summer of 1983 in Sandpoint, Idaho, the release said. 

In a statement from Lucas’ family, they thanked the sheriff’s office and individuals involved with the case.

“After decades of missing Janet, our family is broken-hearted to learn that she was tragically taken, unidentified and spent a large amount of years alone. However, she never spent one moment without being loved. Janet had a contagious smile, warm personality and wore her heart on her sleeve,” the statement said. “We are grateful to finally be able to bring her home to us, as well as bring Janet the peace and rest she so deserves. Not only was she a mother, she was a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend and now a grandmother to 4 beautiful children.“

Lucas was from Spokane. She was born in 1960 and grew up in California and Washington state, the release said. Lucas had a 5-year-old son at the time she went missing who has spent most of his adult life searching for her.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Janet’s family during this difficult time,” Sheriff T.J. McDermott said.

The sheriff’s office is working on returning Lucas’ remains to her family.

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