Mary Silvani didn’t have an easy life. Her father was homeless and her mother was never around. Mary heard her mother had been in and out of psychiatric institutions her whole life. She didn’t talk about her family to friends and classmates. Her parents died when she was sixteen and she was left homeless, along with her two siblings, Charles and Bob. When she was 24 years old she fell pregnant, but unable to keep her child, likely due to her circumstances, she gave it up for adoption. Mary later relocated to California with her brothers and what she did between the years of 1974 – 1982 is unknown. She slowly drifted away from her siblings and they eventually fell out of contact with one another.
In the summer of 1982 hikers discovered the body of a female on a hiking trail along Lake Tahoe just off Mt. Rose highway in Washoe County, Nevada. The victim was lying face down on the ground with a pair of male underwear concealing two gunshot wounds to the back of her head. She was dressed in blue jeans, cream colored tennis shoes with yellow toes and a blue tank top with a one piece blue swim suit beneath. She was estimated to be between the age of 25-35 and stood at around 5”5 with hazel eyes and long medium brown hair that was pulled up into a top knot. After some research it was determined that her clothing was likely purchased in or around California, but this detail did not help identify the slain young woman. The woman had no identification on her person, whether this is because she was out swimming that day or because her killer took it is unknown.
Police canvassed the area and made inquiries, but nobody recalled seeing the young woman.
With no clues to follow, the case became cold and would remain that way for years to come.
Police followed a set of footprints leading from the body to what was likely the parking spot her attacker had left his vehicle at. Tire tracks showed her killer pulled out onto the highway to flee the scene of the crime. It seemed as though two sets of footprints lead to the crime scene with only one leading away. Did the victim and her attacker walk along the trail together before he raped and murdered her?
Autopsy later revealed that she had been sexually assaulted before being shot in the head as she was either bending down or leaning over. Various vaccine scars, dental work and what was determined to be evidence of a cesarean section were noted. Fingerprints were taken and ran through a missing people database but no match was found. Unable to identify the young woman who had fell victim to such a cruel and tragic fate, she became known as “The Sheep Flats Jane Doe”.
For almost four decades the victim lay unidentified in an unmarked grave at “Our Mother of Sorrows” cemetery in Reno.
In 2018 her DNA, as well as the DNA of her killer, was ran through a genetic genealogy database identifying two distant cousins, who through other relatives in New York were able to identify the Sheep Flats Jane Doe as Mary Silvani. Police were inspired to submit the DNA from the case after attending a convention on forensic genealogy and its role in solving cold cases. After the lecture officers reached out to the “DNA Doe Project” and “identifinders”. Soon enough both the victim and perpetrator were identified, although the details of what happened that day and the parties connection to each other, if any, will forever remain a mystery.
Mary's brothers died without knowing what became of her.
After finding out that Mary had ties to the New York area her criminal record was pulled up by the Detroit Police Department. It was discovered that she had been arrested for loitering when she was 25 years old and that her fingerprints were still stored in the archives. The police provided the prints to confirm Jane Doe’s identity. It was Mary.
A Polaroid of Mary provided by an old friend shows her sitting in a car with her girl friends in tow. They’re all beaming smiles, Silvani sits in the passenger seat while the driver smiles at the lens, her hair tangled in the breeze from the open driver’s side window. Mary’s extended family and friends did not report her missing as they believed she had just moved away of her own accord and hoped that she was living a good life.
Her attacker was identified as serial killer James Richard Curry. Curry’s children agreed to provide DNA samples and worked with investigators to solve the 37 year old cold case.
Curry was arrested in 1983 and attempted to take his life in jail after confessing to the murder of three people, although he was apparently the main suspect in the murder of more. Several days after his suicide attempt he succumbed to his injuries and died while awaiting trial. According to various articles online, Curry had a criminal record back in Texas and had killed a married couple. When caught for the double homicide he led police to another body that he had kept in his storage unit.
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