The woman's remains, which were discovered on Oct. 27, 1981, were identified through DNA technology as Lily Ann Prendergast
Lily Ann Prendergast
| Credit: Sacramento County Sheriff's Office

Police have identified skeletal remains found on the shoulder of a California highway nearly 40 years ago.

The remains, which were discovered  on Oct. 27, 1981, were identified through DNA technology as Lily Ann Prendergast.

“Horrible. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t find her,” Prendergast’s brother, William Prendergast, told KTXL. “She used to call me on my birthday all the time. That stopped.”

Police said Prendergast, 26, was last seen leaving her family’s home after an argument in Dallas, Texas, in late 1980. She was known to hitchhike, and had friends and family members in Ohio, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

About one year after she disappeared, remains of a woman were found on the shoulder of Interstate 5, just south of the Freeport Boulevard overpass in Sacramento. Police said the woman, who had long brown hair, was between the ages of 25 and 35 years of age and approximately 5 feet, 5 inches tall. She had a tattoo of a small red flower with two green leaves and stem on her right upper buttock.

Police said she had been killed one to five months before she was found.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office ruled the unknown woman's death a homicide.

“It’s a case that’s kept me up at night,” Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Paige Kneeland said, KTXL reported. “You know, I wake up thinking about it sometimes.”

Over the next four decades, police said they tried to identify the victim through facial reconstruction and sketches, as well as by entering the case into the National Missing Persons Database (NamUs) and submitting her DNA into the state and national Missing Persons DNA Database.

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She remained unidentified until 2019 when William Prendergast gave a sample of his DNA to the FBI.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a match in February of 2020.

“Who and why? Why would they do such a thing?” William Prendergast said.

If anyone has any information regarding Prendergast's disappearance or death, contact the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office at (916) 874-TIPS (8477), or visit to submit a tip.