Skip to Content

‘Half the battle’ Investigators identify cold case murder victim 27 years later

The body of a woman, who was found with significant trauma along Highway 60 in 1996, has been identified through genetic genealogy.

Juana Rosas-Zagal, 41, of the Los Angeles area was identified as the victim 27 years after her body was found. Her body was found on January 27, 1996 east of Gilman Springs Road in the Moreno Valley area.

"This case has been going pretty much nonstop from 1996. Different investigators over the years have picked it up and and put some work into it," said Jason Corey, an Investigator with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Due to a lack of investigative leads, the case and the victim’s identity remained unresolved for decades. Her body was found with significant trauma, making her unidentifiable at the time.

“She was found in an area where there was a trash pile off the side of the road. And she was found by a couple that was out in the morning time searching for cans," Corey explained.

Authorities were able to identify Zagal through the state's Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The county uses the company, Othram, in Texas to analyze the DNA.

“Her DNA was collected back then. And over the years, it was her DNA was stored with the California Department of Justice," Corey explained. "They can take that DNA sample, and then they can turn that into a profile that is uploadable into the direct to consumer websites.

In December of 2022, the Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team (RCCHT) were finally able to identify four of the victim's daughters who had nearly lost hope of knowing the whereabouts of their mother.

Using current DNA technologies, such as Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy, the team was able to locate a close ancestral link. That technology uses direct-to-consumer databases to explore the ancestral ties of unidentified homicide victims.

“He destroyed my family, he didn't kill only one person. He killed all of us. I really, really wish we somebody knows something they can let us know," said Santana, one of Zagal's daughter.

The suspect involved in her death remains at large. "That's half the battle... now we got to put the rest of it together," Corey said.

The investigation into what happened and who’s responsible for Zagal's murder is now underway.

Detectives believe there are still friends, neighbors, or colleagues of Zagal who may be able to provide more information to help clarify Juana's disappearance. Anyone who knew Zagal or has any further information is asked to contact detectives at (951) 955-0740 or (951) 955-2777.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Samantha Lomibao

Samantha joined KESQ News Channel 3 in May 2021. Learn more about Samantha here here.


News Channel 3 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content