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Authorities identify ‘Jane Doe’ discovered at Vacaville construction site in 1991


Vacaville police said Monday that they know the identity of a woman who was found dead at a construction site 28 years ago, and now they are asking the public to help them learn what led to her death. Cynthia Merkley, also known as Cynthia Bilardi, 38, was found dead in a field at the construction site of the Premium Outlets at 321 Nut Tree Road and Burton Drive in April 1991, police Lt. Chris Polen said. There were no signs of blunt force trauma or foul play and it was regarded as a suspicious death, Polen said.

Detectives determined the woman had been dead for two to three weeks, and the condition of her body prevented the Solano County coroner’s office from identifying her, according to Polen.

Detectives and the coroner’s office exhumed the body in 1998 for a facial reconstruction by a law enforcement expert. The reconstruction model and an artist’s sketch were made public and led to many leads, but the identity remained a mystery until late last year.

The California Department of Justice Missing Person’s Unit informed detectives that they identified Merkley using updated fingerprint technology.

Merkley was estranged for several years from her family, which included several of her young children. She was not reported missing at the time of her death and she had been living between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa when she died, Polen said.

“The family is still around but they can’t fill in the gaps. She had a husband but they divorced,” Polen said.

Detectives never gave up hope that she would be identified. Many of them have retired but even the detectives want closure, Polen said. Police are hoping new leads will help determine the circumstances of Merkley’s death. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Andy Polik at (707) 469-4814 or

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