RENO (CBS SF/AP) — A man who confessed to three Bay Area homicides, but committed suicide in jail while awaiting trial, has been linked by DNA tests from a private lab to a 1982 cold case murder in the Lake Tahoe area, authorities announced Tuesday.
Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam said DNA testing has identified the victim known as Sheep’s Flat Jane Doe as Mary Edith Silvani, whose body was found in a popular meadowed area near the summit of the Mt. Rose Highway on July 17, 1982.
“A female shooting victim was found near a hiking trail in Sheep’s Flat,” Balaam said in describing the case. “The victim had no ID or jewelry on her. She appeared to be dressed for a day at the beach in a powdered blue t-shirt, blue jeans, yellow tennis shoes and a bathing suit under her clothing.”
In February 2018, criminalists with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department asked the DNA Doe Project for their help in attempting to identify the remains.
“DNA from the Sheep’s Flat Jane Doe were sent to a private lab,” Balaam said. “The results were loaded into gedmatch to try to identify family members… The DNA Doe Project was able to determine that Jane Doe was the biological daughter of a couple who lived in Detroit, Michigan — John and Blanche Silvani.”
The suspect, Balaam said, was much more difficult to identify. A search of the FBI’s DNA database came up empty, but a genealogy firm was able to identify the suspect as a grandson of a couple in the Dallas area.
“The couple had three sons and only one known grandson,” Balaam said. “Additional investigation cleared the grandson of being a suspect. Evidence pointed to the suspect as an illegitimate child of one of the sons.”
Balaam said that child was named James Richard Curry, who confessed to a 1982 murder in Santa Clara and two killings in the San Jose-area in January 1983 but died in a Santa Clara jail in 1983 before he went to trial.
Curry’s children agreed to undergo testing and the results confirmed he was Silvani’s killer.
“And that is where our case is closed,” Balaam said.