(Reuters) - A body found stuffed in a Maine freezer in October was identified as that of a 29-year-old woman who went missing nearly three decades ago after a fight with her boyfriend, police said on Friday.
DNA testing results this week conclusively identified the remains as those of Kitty Wardwell, who disappeared in 1983, Maine state police spokesman Stephen McCausland said. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
Wardwell's body was discovered in October in an unplugged freezer in a storage unit in Lewiston, Maine, that was rented nine years after her disappearance by her on-and-off boyfriend Frank Julian, McCausland said.
Julian, who died on October 1 at age 80, was believed to be the last person to see Wardwell alive, McCausland said. Family members cleaning out Julian's storage unit after his death found the body and notified police.
Wardwell, who was from Holden, Maine, according to the state police website's missing persons page, was initially reported missing in July 1983 by a friend. Wardwell's sister also reported her missing months later.
At the time, Julian said he had left Wardwell at a New Hampshire motel after a fight and returned to Maine alone, according to a state police missing persons report.
Investigators had believed she was likely a victim of foul play. Julian had been questioned over the years about the case, which remained open, McCausland said.
McCausland said the DNA testing was conducted at a Pennsylvania lab and the results were sent to Maine's medical examiner's office and to detectives on Thursday. He said police notified Wardwell's family on Friday morning.
The medical examiner's office has also determined that Wardwell's death was a homicide, but the cause of death was being withheld, McCausland said.
"Detectives will continue to interview members of Julian's family in an attempt to find the origin of the freezer and when it was placed in the storage facility," he said.
(Reporting by Zach Howard; additional reporting by Lauren Keiper. Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Johnston)