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California

Remains identified as Manhattan Beach woman who vanished in 2016 during trip to LACMA

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A family photo shows Nancy Paulikas, who went missing after a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Oct. 15, 2016.
(Courtesy of Paulikas family)

When Nancy Paulikas went missing more than two years ago during a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, her family and friends never lost hope that she’d come home.

Her husband set up a blog to publicize her disappearance, noting a $100,000 reward for information. Even recently, Kirk Moody had been posting a few times each month.

In one post less than two weeks ago, he shared Christmas memories from a family trip to Denver. He closed the message with an urgent plea.

“During this holiday season, if you visit a skilled-nursing facility, please keep your eyes open for Nancy,” he wrote. “You don’t have to be positive it is Nancy, she just needs to completely fit the profile. Including a photo is ideal if possible. Thanks. Let’s bring Nancy home.”

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A day after Christmas, he received some heartbreaking news.

Los Angeles County coroner’s investigators finally made a break in the case. A charred skull and bones — found in a Sherman Oaks park, more than a year apart — matched Paulikas’ DNA.

The coroner’s online database lists the Manhattan Beach woman’s date of death as March 11, 2017, the same day a brush fire broke out in the area of Fossil Ridge Park in Sherman Oaks. Firefighters found the skull in a ravine while battling the blaze.

More than a year later, in September, investigators found bones in the same area of the park where they recovered the skull. They sent samples from the bones to state authorities for DNA analysis.

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This week, they discovered the two sets of remains belonged to the same person: Paulikas.

It is not clear how she died. She was 56.

Moody announced the update on his blog.

He and Paulikas met while working at TRW/Northrop Grumman and had retired early to pursue their love of hiking and other outdoor adventures. But Paulikas developed Alzheimer’s and it rapidly consumed her, to the point that she became unfamiliar with her own life story. Moody became her constant caregiver.

Paulikas went to the museum with family in October 2016 and after going to the bathroom, she disappeared. Authorities at the time said she suffered from severe dementia and had trouble communicating.

Moody told The Times about a month after his wife vanished that he suspected she walked out of the bathroom and when she didn’t immediately see him, she went looking.

“It never entered my mind that she would roam,” he said. She feared being separated from groups, and particularly from him.

Her disappearance prompted Los Angeles County officials to launch a program to help find people with autism, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who may wander off and go missing.

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alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter: @AleneTchek


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