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Murder victim's body exhumed

She would have been 50 years old Dec. 17

Judy Edwards and Joyce Mikowychok of Britt sometimes go to the nearby Sand Lake Cemetery and read books at the grave of their younger sister, Cindy Elias, who was murdered by an unknown person more than 31 years ago when she was 19.

It was disconcerting for the sisters to have Cindy's body exhumed by St. Louis County authorities last week, but they hope it leads to a break in the cold case.

"We feel we wanted to do whatever it took, but we do have mixed emotions about it,'' Edwards said. "It's almost a horrifying feeling to see your sister's grave dug up, but we keep looking for the future and what the end result might be. ... I think we are very much hopeful that something will come of this.''

St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman said Monday that the body was exhumed on Nov. 3 and examined by St. Louis County Medical Examiner Dr. Tom Uncini, whose office still has the body. Litman would not say what led to the exhumation or whether any fruitful information has been gleaned.

"Information came to light that led us to believe that there might be additional evidence that might be gained by further examination and forensic testing,'' Litman said. He said the tip isn't related to the Cold Case playing cards issued by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension last month. Elias' face, a description of her murder and the location of where her body was found were printed on the deck's Six of Diamonds.

Shortly after midnight on March 23, 1977, Elias was last seen at Sammy's Bar and Lounge in Virginia, the sheriff's office said. Acquaintances said she was going to hitchhike home. A day later, her body was discovered hidden under a pile of brush along a rural logging road just north of Aurora. An autopsy report indicated that she was killed by several massive blows to the head and died not long before her body was discovered.

Elias was born in Virginia, but graduated from Paramount, Calif., high school in 1976 before moving back to Britt. She attended Mesabi Community College and was working as a waitress at Virginia's Dutch Treat coffee shop at the Coates Motor Inn at the time of her murder. She would have been 50 this Dec. 17.

"She was vibrant, happy-go-lucky and a hard worker,'' said Mikowychok. "She was majoring in social work. She liked to help people.''

"Closure is such an overused word,'' added Edwards. "I guess what I'm looking for is some justice. Who does this person think he is that he could go on all these years after what he did to Cindy? He had a full life and he took that from Cindy and all of us. If they don't have it solved by the time I die, my son is taking over for me. I'll just never let it go.''

Litman said Joe Skofich, the supervising deputy of the sheriff's office in Hibbing, has been working the case for the past four years along with the BCA. Anyone with information is asked to call the St. Louis County Dispatch Center in Virginia at (218) 749-6010.