Julie Watts reporting

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Police in Vacaville were finally able to identify the remains of a woman found 28 years ago, thanks to advancements in fingerprint technology.

Cynthia Merkley (credit: Vacaville PD)

" data-medium-file="https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15909776/2019/03/cynthia-merkley-1.jpg?w=292" data-large-file="https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15909776/2019/03/cynthia-merkley-1.jpg?w=353" loading="lazy" class="size-full wp-image-575970" src="https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15909776/2019/03/cynthia-merkley-1.jpg" alt="" width="353" height="363" srcset="https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15909776/2019/03/cynthia-merkley-1.jpg 353w, https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15909776/2019/03/cynthia-merkley-1.jpg?resize=146,150 146w, https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15909776/2019/03/cynthia-merkley-1.jpg?resize=292,300 292w" sizes="(max-width: 353px) 100vw, 353px"> Cynthia Merkley (credit: Vacaville PD)

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Why did it take so long to identify Cynthia Merkley?

At the time of discovery, investigators took fingerprints but said they were significantly decomposed, too much for traditional fingerprinting technology or be of help. Still, they kept them on fire for 28 years.

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Officials said the next generation of FBI identification software, now being used by the Department of Justice, is allowing investigators to identify partial prints like Cynthia’s.

Vacaville PD said the DOJ recently ran her partial prints through a database of newly uploaded legacy records, which included arrest records from the early 1980s when Cynthia was arrested for petty theft.

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The combination of the new technology and old records allowed them to identify the Jane Doe, decades after facial reconstruction and sketches failed to turn up any leads.

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The DOJ is reportedly working its way through a series of old prints and has turned up leads in hundreds of cold cases so far. Investigators hope this is just the beginning of cold cases solved.