Decades long mystery over missing Winter Haven woman solved

February 23rd, 2015 by Staff

Investigators with PCSO's missing persons unit matched up DNA from the train victim to the missing woman's children.


(BTLS Staff) WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – A mystery surrounding the disappearance of a Winter Haven woman nearly three decades ago has been solved.

Cheryl Setzer – 41 when she vanished – was last seen in February 1986. Her husband told her three children that she had run away but he did not file a missing persons report.

According to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office report DNA collected from one of Setzer’s daughters matched DNA taken from a woman who was struck and killed by a train on February 21, 1986.

The death was ruled accidental following an investigation by the Winter Haven Police Department. The victim had remained unidentified until the recent DNA match.

Over the years Setzer’s children wondered what happened to their mother. In 2009 Carrie Setzer – who was 16 when Cheryl disappeared – hired a private investigator who filed a missing persons report in Polk County.

Cheryl Setzer’s information was entered into a state and national missing persons database. PCSO’s missing persons unit also contacted Setzer’s daughters to get DNA to assist in their investigation.

The genetic material was forwarded to a lab at the University of North Texas, one of the few organizations that conducts DNA testing for law enforcement.

In August 2012, PCSO received information about an unidentified female who had been struck and killed by a train in Winter Haven, not far from Setzer’s residence.

The incident occurred along 21st St. Northwest. The female’s remains were never identified. Last week the UNT reported the unidentified remains were a positive match with the Setzer’s girls DNA.


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