Missing Woman’s Remains Found Among Debris of Sherman Oaks Brush Fire, But Still Unclear How She Got There

The husband of Nancy Paulikas, the missing Manhattan Beach woman whose remains were positively identified this week, said Thursday that he's been given some closure, but questions remain surrounding his wife's disappearance.

"No matter what circumstances you draw, it had to be sort of a bad end for her," Kirk Moody told KTLA the day after learning his wife died. "Having said that, sure, there's relief that at least we don't have to continue looking for her."

Paulikas vanished after separating from Moody to go into the restroom while the two were visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in October 2016.

She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease and had the mental capacity of a 4-year-old at the time, her family has said. She was 55 when she disappeared.

The last glimpse of Paulikas alive came from museum surveillance video showing her heading west down Wilshire Boulevard on foot. She had no jacket, wallet or phone on her.

Her loved ones launched a tireless search effort.

"Literally this week, LAPD just dropped off some more records and paperwork," Moody told KTLA. "We were working with their Missing Persons Unit to still solve this case."

Their efforts even inspired the formation of L.A. Found, a countywide initiative to better track and locate individuals with Alzheimer's, dementia and autism.

But despite their unflagging search, no trace of Paulikas was ever found — until a brush fire broke out in Sherman Oaks in March 2017.

Firefighters battling the blaze in Fossil Ridge Park noticed a human skull in a ravine along Coy Drive and contacted police and coroner's officials to investigate, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Though coroner's records state Paulikas' date of death as March 11, 2017 — the same date the fire occurred — it unclear if that's when she actually died.

L.A. County coroner's investigators sent a sample from Paulikas' skull to the California Department of Justice the next month, and DNA analysis was conducted, the department said in a news release.

The case lulled until this year, when investigators uncovered bones in the same area of the park where the skull was found. Though the remains were initially assigned a different case number, further analysis at the state DOJ determined they belonged to the same person, and that the person matched Paulikas’ DNA, officials said.

Local authorities and Moody were notified of the DOJ's results on Wednesday.

Coroner's investigators are still working to determine the cause and manner of Paulikas' death.

The Manhattan Beach resident was an accomplished technology executive at a financial firm before retiring in 2011. She developed Alzheimer's disease a few years later.

"She was brilliant," Moody said. "I miss her smile, and I miss her company. She was a lot of fun to be with."

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