The New Brighton Department of Public Safety says it has finally identified a Minneapolis woman whose body was found 23 years ago in Long Lake Regional Park.

Gail Marlene Johnson was 40 at the time she died, the department said in a news release Friday. The case has remained cold for years with authorities unable to match DNA from her remains with any known missing people.

"Identifying her provides an important new clue as we continue our work to determine the circumstances of her death," said Tony Paetznick, New Brighton's public safety director, in a news release.

On Sept. 15, 2000, two teenagers found Johnson's body while walking in a wooded and marshy area of Long Lake Regional Park, the release stated. Investigators believe her body had been there up to two months. The state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension obtained DNA from the remains but did not come up with any matches in its database.

Despite what the New Brighton agency called "exhaustive investigative efforts," the case remained cold for years. This summer, investigators worked with Astrea Forensics to determine a DNA profile for the body that could be used to search for possible family connections. The DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit organization, used that profile to find what the release called "a likely genetic connection to Johnson's family."

Her DNA was then matched with a sample provided by a family member.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office never determined the cause or manner of death due to the state of the remains. However, investigators consider the death "suspicious," the release said. A call to the department seeking comment was not returned Friday.

Johnson had been a sex worker, and was known to spend time along Lake Street in Minneapolis, according to the release. She was 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighed 135 pounds, and had light brown hair. She drove a black or gray 1989 Ford Mustang, and her last known interaction with law enforcement was July 11, 2000.

The release did not address whether Johnson was ever reported missing.

The department asked anyone who had contact with Johnson to let investigators know by phone at 651-288-4141, email, or online at