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Allegany Reservoir body identified

Forensic testing has confirmed that human remains found in the Allegany Reservoir three years ago were those of Traci Douglass of Salamanca.

Cattaraugus County Sheriff Timothy S. Whitcomb will release additional details today regarding what he called "the unnatural death."

On Sept. 26, 2009, a fisherman notified police that skeletal remains were found near the edge of the Allegany Reservoir as the rapidly dropping water levels revealed the remains along a mud-covered shoreline.

The area is remote and located off West Perimeter Road near Onoville in South Valley. It is near the county's Onoville Marina and Bone Run Road, on the Allegany Territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

At that time, police said the remains were in an advanced state of decomposition and revealed a fractured left shinbone and fractured rib that had healed.

Further investigation revealed the remains were a woman who had been in the water for several years. One left midsize boot with embroidered flowers on the exterior also was recovered.

The remains and other items found at the scene were sent to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo. Forensic lab tests indicated a partial DNA profile, and a forensic odontological exam developed a dental profile.

In April, the remains were sent to the Department of Forensic Biology, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, in New York City for more detailed DNA analysis, which produced a DNA profile.

Whitcomb said a missing person report was never filed for Douglass. So his investigators began asking around the community about anyone not seen in a while. They discovered Douglass was last seen around January 2007.

Further investigation led them to the woman's family members both in Salamanca and Maryland. DNA was secured from a family member to gain a match and identify the remains.

Whitcomb said her family confirmed that there were long periods in between communications with Douglass. He did not know whether she had been employed, adding that will now become part of the investigation into her death.

He said that the case is being investigated as suspicious and that the cause of death has yet to be determined. Assisting Sheriff's Office detectives are officers from the Jamestown office of the FBI.

Anyone with information about the woman can call Detective William Welling at 938-2276. All calls will be handled confidentially.

"We want to generate as much feedback as possible," Whitcomb said.