Skeletal remains found in Heights home identified as woman missing since 2015

Biological profile used to help identify body as that of Mary Cerruti, 61

By Brittany Taylor - Digital News Editor, Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter, Dawn Jorgenson - Graham Media Group

HOUSTON - An identification has been made on skeletal remains found in March 2017 in a Heights area home.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Science said the skeletal remains were those of Mary Stewart Cerruti, 61, who once owned the home and who has not been seen since 2015.

Tax records show that Cerruti owned the home, but foreclosure proceedings indicated that she had missed 10 loan payments by January 2015. Court records show the bank that held the loan sought foreclosure in March 2015.

Years passed as new developments surrounded the modest home at 610 Allston, and neighbors noticed that Cerruti had not been seen and her mail was piling up.

Police said that, in August 2015, a friend of Cerruti's reported her missing and said he had not spoken to her in about six months. Police said officers went into the home and found several dead and decaying cats. Neighbors said Cerruti was known to care for stray cats in the neighborhood.

A missing person flyer was generated in September 2015 in hopes that someone would know what had happened to Cerruti. Police said two distant cousins also came forward in September 2016 after learning that Cerruti was listed as missing while they were conducting genealogy research.

Police said the two cousins offered samples of their DNA, hoping that Cerruti could be identified if she was found. Police said the cousins told officers that they had not had contact with Cerruti since 1985.

Police do not believe that Cerruti had any family in the Houston area.

The last known job that Cerruti held was as a clerk at Casa Ramirez on 19th Street in the Heights. One of the owners told KPRC that it was not uncommon for Cerruti to work for a time and then disappear for a month or two.

They said she was very bright, well-read and creative and had a curious mind. They said the only health problem they knew of was that Cerruti was prone to headaches.

Police said the home's new owners were tinkering around in the attic on Saturday when a board gave way and skeletal remains were found in a crawl space.

HCIFS said a forensic anthropologist was able to recover Cerruti's moderately fragmented remains, including her skull. Personal effects found on the body included degraded clothing, athletic shoes and a pair of Foster Grant brown and bronze eyeglasses.

Officials said Cerruti was known to wear glasses, and video footage of her at a February 2013 Houston Planning Commission meeting showed her wearing glasses similar to those found on the remains.

The Institute of Forensic Science said a biological profile of the remains were consistent with Cerruti's -- a white female of small build, over the age of 40. They also found a crown where she was known to have been missing a tooth a few years prior to her disappearance.

Cerruti was positively identified according to the biological profile of the remains, in addition to contextual information, including where the remains were found and historical information. Officials said a video clip of Cerruti that a Houston-based newspaper provided also aided in the identification.

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