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Remains found at state park identified as Minneapolis woman missing 30 years

Human remains found in a remote section of Gooseberry Falls State Park last year have been identified as those of a Minneapolis woman missing for nearly 30 years.

Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson and officials from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Wednesday announced that the death of 19-year-old Cassandra Rhines is being treated as a homicide.

“Cassandra Rhines was last heard from in June 1985, when she called a friend to confirm her attendance at her goddaughter’s birthday party in Minneapolis the next day,” Johnson said in a news release. “She never showed, and was never heard from again.”

The remains were found in May 2014 by an off-duty employee of the Lake County Sheriff's Office. Johnson said at a news conference that the employee was training his dogs in a remote area of Gooseberry Falls State Park -- an area not frequented by visitors -- when he found a skull. Later searches turned up additional bones.

The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office and a forensic anthropologist determined that Rhines had been the victim of homicide. Investigators said they believe Rhines was killed near the time of her disappearance. They also said Wednesday that they believe Rhines was killed elsewhere, and then her body was left in the park.

DNA extracted from the remains was matched to a family member of Rhines last August; that relative had provided a sample in late 2013. Additional testing conducted since that time confirmed the identity of the remains.

Now investigators are seeking help in learning more about Rhines, and people who may have been involved in her death.

“Investigators need the public’s help to better understand who Cassandra Rhines knew and who may have sought to harm her,” BCA Assistant Superintendent Drew Evans said in a news release. “The clearer picture we have of the time when she disappeared, the better chance we have of finding out who killed her.”