EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — After four decades of being a ‘Jane Doe’ El Dorado County cold case investigators identified skull found in 1981 belongs to Rebecca Dinkel, who disappeared with her mother in 1974.

In a case spanning many decades, long before DNA evidence was common practice, there was little hope of closure for Rebecca Dinkel’s children.

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According to the El Dorado County district attorney, the case began in 1974 with 37-year-old Nancy Webster was at a cafe with her 19-year-old daughter Rebecca in Garden Valley.

The mother and daughter left the cafe and received a phone call from Nancy’s abusive live-in boyfriend Clifton Mahaney. The two women disappeared, leaving Rebecca’s two young children behind, 2-year-old Brion and 6-month-old Clinton.

No bodies were recovered, but the district attorney’s office was able to prosecute Mahaney for the murders. He was convicted in 1974 of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The DA said Mahaney died in 2002 without ever admitting to the murders or identifying the location of the bodies.

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But, in 1981 a human skull with an apparent gunshot wound was found in the Rock Creek Road area of El Dorado County. The skull was believed to belong to one of the women, but there were no dental records on file or sufficient DNA to link the skull to them.

In 2017 the El Dorado County Cold Case Task Force, along with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Detectives, graduate students from Chico State University’s Forensic Anthropology Department, and criminalists from the California Department of Justice’s Richmond Lab, made a breakthrough.

The Richmond DNA lab was able to recover a partial DNA sample from one of the molars still attached to the skull and deputies reached out to Rebecca’s sons for help.

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Both sons gave DNA samples which were tested against the sample from the skull. It matched and revealed the skull belonged to Rebecca.