They study the DNA found in necklace of 25,000 years ago 1:29

(CNN) -- After police found a dead body in a black trunk in a wooded area of Florida 53 years ago, the mystery of the "lady in the trunk" became an unsolved case that captured the public's attention for decades. But thanks to DNA testing, police just identified the victim as Sylvia June Atherton, a mother of five born in Tucson, Arizona.

On Halloween 1969, St. Petersburg police received a call to a wooded area behind what was then a restaurant called the Oyster Bar, Deputy Chief Michael Kovacsev said at a news conference Tuesday. According to him, two children said they saw two white men in a van unload the trunk in the field and leave.

When officers opened the trunk, they found the body of a woman wrapped in a large plastic bag, police said in a statement. She had visible head injuries and was partially dressed in pajamas. She was strangled with a tie, according to police.

Investigators were unable to identify the woman, who was buried under the generic name "Jane Doe" in St. Petersburg's Memorial Park Cemetery.

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The mystery of the "woman in the trunk," as she came to be known, captured the attention of crime shows, journalists and amateur detectives over the years, but even after her body was exhumed in 2010, detectives were unable to solve the case. The tooth and bone samples they collected were too degraded, according to police.

When a sample of the victim's hair and skin taken during the original autopsy turned up earlier this year, St. Petersburg cold case detective Wally Pavelski sent it to a lab for DNA testing and police were soon able to identify Atherton. They say he was 41 when he died.

"It has a name, after 53 years. His family closed the case," Kovacsev said.

A family is still looking for answers

Pavelski located Atherton's daughter, Syllen Gates.

"It was shocking, because many years had passed," Gates said at the news conference via video call from California, according to a video of the event released by 10 Tampa Bay. "We had no idea what had happened to him."

Gates was about 5 years old when his mother left Tucson for Chicago in 1965, he said. Police said Atherton left with her husband, Stuart Brown, and three of their children — Kimberly Anne Brown, adult son Gary Sullivan and adult daughter Donna Lindhurst — along with Lindhurt's husband, David Lindhurst.

Gates and her 11-year-old brother stayed in Tucson with their father, Atherton's ex-husband.

"We thought that at some point we would hear from them, but life goes on. I was young," Gates said. "It's a sad relief to have finally found her. Of course, it's a terrible way to die, a few years after she left the state."

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Gary Sullivan eventually returned to Tucson. Gates used to try to find his mother and sisters, but had no luck. He said he had not heard of the "trunk woman" case until Pavelski contacted her.

Stuart Brown died in 1999 in Las Vegas. He never reported Atherton missing and did not include her name in bankruptcy filings, Kovacsev said.

Although police managed to identify her, they still don't know who is responsible for her death.

"This is where amateur detectives come in," Kovacsev said. "This is where we ask for help putting the pieces together."

Police say the two daughters who left Tucson with Atherton have not yet been located. Kimberly Anne Brown, who was about 5 years old at the time of the disappearance, and Donna Lindhurst, who was in her 20s, may have information that is helpful, police said.

"We would like the case to be resolved. We would like to find out who did it, and also find my sisters," Gates said. "That's my hope. Maybe this is known, maybe they find out and maybe we can locate them."