For years, a woman whose remains were found on Staten Island was identified only as ‘the girl with the scorpion tattoo.’ Now, over 30 years later, her real name has been revealed.
Her name is Christine Belusko, the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office said in a Facebook post and on Twitter.
But that’s only part of the mystery.
Police also said Belusko had a 2-year-old daughter at the time named Christa Nicole, and investigators don’t know what happened to her.
“While Christine’s killer remains unidentified (and) the whereabouts of Christa Nicole are unknown, we are turning to the public to ask their assistance in bringing this case to a close (and) securing long-delayed justice in the case of the girl with the scorpion tattoo,” the district attorney’s office said in its Facebook post.
What happened to Christine Belusko?
Belusko’s body was found on Sept. 20, 1991 with nearly 20 blows to her head in a wooded area, McMahon said at the press conference Tuesday.
Two employees from a nearby psychiatric hospital who were walking by found her and initially thought she was a mannequin, the New York Times reported.
She was lying face up and handcuffed, wearing a black and pink dress, two gold chains and a watch, the Times reported. On her buttock was a scorpion tattoo, the newspaper said.
She was also strangled and set on fire, the Times reported.
Investigators found a hammer underneath her with “Loyd L” etched into its handle. The hammer, the Times reported, was often used by auto body workers to get rid of dents in vehicles.
Victim’s identification has led to more questions
At the time of her death, Belusko was a 30-year-old single mother working for a store called Rainbow Shops, the Times reported.
Television station WNBC reported that investigators spoke to the victim’s brother. That’s how they found out about her daughter, 2-year-old daughter Christa Nicole.
Investigators still aren’t sure where her daughter is.
According to the Charley Project, which investigates missing persons cases, the little girl was last seen a week before Sept. 20, 1991 with Belusko at the Mount Airy Lodge in Pennsylvania. Christa Nicole would be 33 today.
How did police identify Belusko?
Authorities tried traditional methods such as DNA testing and analyzing dental records but to no avail, the district attorney’s office said. Eventually, Investigators with the NYPD, the F.B.I. and the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office were able to identify her using genealogy.
In 2019, District Attorney McMahon approved the use of forensic genealogy, which was unavailable in 1991.
Her blood and tissue were sent to a Texas lab in 2019, then run through DNA databases. Investigators honed in on possible relatives in New York and New Jersey and got in contact with her brother. He then gave investigators a DNA swab, the New York Times said.
Belusko’s biological mother lived in New Jersey and had eight other children, according to the Times. She put Belusko up for adoption when she was a baby.
Her adoptive parents were Frank Belusko, a New Jersey glass molder and Dorothy, an auto dealership secretary.
Once she found out she was adopted, Belusko eventually told the family she had plans to leave New Jersey and move to Florida. She left in July 1991 and stayed at the Mount Airy Lodge for a short period of time, the Times reported.
None of her family members knew she was murdered and her brother assumed she was living in Florida with her daughter, the Times reported.
Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon said at the news conference Tuesday that her killer must’ve known her well due to the vitriol with which she was killed.
“There is no indication at all that this was some sort of serial killer out on the prowl who picked her up,” McMahon said.
Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757 – and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.