NEW YORK — Authorities in New York City have publicly identified a woman murdered 31 years ago who has only been known to investigators as the “girl with the scorpion tattoo.”
During a news conference on Tuesday, Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon identified the woman as Christine Belusko, 29, of Clifton, New Jersey, The New York Times reported. Officials said forensic genealogy, which was not available in 1991, helped police determine the woman’s identity, according to NBC News.
“While this is a story about a brutal and depraved act of violence that killed a young woman in her prime, and the dumping of her body in a lonely and desolate field on the East Shore of Staten Island exactly 31½ years ago, it is also a story about our dogged, dedicated detectives and detective Investigators, and my persistent and purposeful prosecutors,” McMahon said in a statement.
A woman whose body was found in 1991 in a ditch across from a psychiatric hospital on Staten Island was finally identified. Using a vial of her blood and her tissue, officials figured out she was Christine Belusko, 30, a single mother of a 2-year-old girl.https://t.co/GZx7MgkSbk— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 22, 2023
Officials hope to track down Belusko’s daughter, who was 2 at the time of the murder on Sept. 20, 1991, and identify her killer, the Times reported.
Belusko was found handcuffed, strangled, beaten in the head with a hammer and set on fire in Staten Island, WABC-TV reported. Her body was found in a ditch across from a psychiatric hospital by two employees, the Times reported. According to news reports in 1991, the employees initially believed the body was a discarded mannequin.
The woman wore two gold chains and a ring watch on her right finger, and on her right buttock was a tattoo of a scorpion, according to the newspaper. Under her body was a hammer that was similar to those used by auto shop workers to bang out dents. The hammer had “Loyd L” scratched into the handle, according to the Times.
DNA and dental records failed to produce results, but in 2021, investigators began using recently improved genealogy forensics, NorthJersey.com reported. A vial of her blood and her tissue that was kept by the medical examiner’s office helped police in New York and investigators with the FBI determine that the body was that of Belusko, a single mother who worked for the Rainbow Slopes retail chain, the Times reported.
Her blood and tissue were submitted to a Houston-area lab in 2019. A DNA swab from her biological brother also proved to be helpful.
Police said they can only speculate about the fate of Belusko’s child, Christa Nicole Belusko, who was born on Aug. 1, 1989, according to the newspaper. The child was last seen a week before the murder in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, according to the Charley Project, which tracks cases of missing people.
Investigators do not know who the father of Belusko’s daughter is and where the girl was at the time of her mother’s death, NBC News reported.
Christine Belusko had been put up for adoption by a New Jersey woman with eight other children, NorthJersey.com reported. After learning about the adoption, she drifted apart from her adoptive family members. None of them knew she had been murdered, according to the Times.
Detectives tracked down the identity of her adoptive parents: Frank Belusko, who had been a glass molder from Montville, New Jersey; and his wife, Dorothy Belusko, a secretary at an auto dealership in Boonton, New Jersey, the newspaper reported.
Christine Belusko was raised in Montville, according to Andrew Crawford, a spokesperson for McMahon’s office. Her last known address was in Clifton, NorthJersey.com reported.
Belusko told the family she planned to move to Florida. She left Clifton in July 1991 and stayed in the Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos, according to the news outlet.
Investigators said they could not discuss the last days of Christine Belusko’s life or why she came to Staten Island, citing the continuing investigation, the Times reported.
Dorothy Belusko died in 2000, and Frank Belusko died two years later, according to the newspaper. Both obituaries named Christine Belusko and her daughter as survivors.
At the news conference Tuesday, authorities showed an age progression image of what Christa Belusko might look like today, NBC News reported.
McMahon said he is holding out hope that someone can shed light on Christine Belusko’s killer and where her daughter might be.
“We have pretty much run down all the leads we can in trying to locate the individuals who would know Christa Nicole and any other leads that may help us in solving the underlying crime,” McMahon said, according to NBC News.