HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. - A family finally has some answers more than 40 years after a Tampa woman went missing.
The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office identified the remains of Theresa Fillingim.
She went missing in Tampa in 1980 when she was 17 years old.
Her remains were later found in 1981 at the home of a serial killer, Billy Mansfield, but were only recently identified.
What You Need To Know
- The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office identified the remains of Theresa Fillingim
- She went missing in Tampa in 1980 when she was 17 years old
- Investigators say she was a victim of serial killer Billy Mansfield
“She was on her way to a job interview at the University Mall in Tampa and never came home,” said her sister, Margaret Johns.
Johns says she was first contacted by HCSO last year that they might have a tip on her sister.
“It was a shock," she said. "It was 41 years after she disappeared that something would come of it."
Interviewed @HernandoSheriff Cold Case Detective George Loydgren tonight. He just helped ID Theresa Fillingim, who went missing in 1980 at age 17. Her body was found at serial killer Billy Mansfield's home in Hernando but never ID'd until now. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/15aW8TuoXh— Tim Wronka (@TimWronka) July 21, 2022
Hernando County Cold Case Detective George Loydgren never gave up on trying to identify the body.
He worked with scientists at the University of North Texas and Parabon Nano Labs to use DNA phenotyping to finally identify Theresa.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling, because we have a young lady who lost her life, she’s been murdered," Loydgren said. "But the upshot is I can bring he back to her family."
DNA phenotyping is the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from DNA evidence, according to HCSO.
It’s technology that could lead to more cases being solved.
“I think it’s fantastic," Loydgren said. "We’re closing cases.”
And though it doesn’t bring Theresa home, members of her family said it brings them closure, even if it's more than 40 years later.
“It wasn’t the closure I was looking for, but closure it is,” Johns said.
Johns said she’s very thankful for the work that was done at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and wants to give hope to anyone else out there looking.
Four victims were found at Billy Mansfield’s home in Hernando. Three have now been identified with a fourth still unknown. Mansfield is currently serving four life sentences in a California prison.