Woodbury police are testing DNA and dental records from a 78-year-old Queens woman who went missing five years ago to determine if it matches human remains found in a wooded area outside the Woodbury Commons shopping outlet.
Pan Sun Kim was reported missing in June 2008 and family members had all but given up hope of finding her.
But when the Korea Times newspaper ran an article on May 31 about the remains with a description of the items found nearby, family members reached out to the newspaper, according to the publication.
The newspaper called Woodbury police, who confirmed that several items found with the remains -- including eyeglasses, a gold necklace and jewelry, Korean medicine and pink pajamas -- were among items that could have belonged to Kim.
"It appears that it is probably this person, but we are waiting for confirmation from the forensic anthropologist," Woodbury Police Chief Richard Vasquez told Newsday Westchester on Monday. "We're not 100 percent sure."
Vasquez said police detectives expect to have the DNA test results sometime this week, but said dental records might confirm before then if the remains match the Queens woman.
The skeletal remains could have been dumped there about a year ago after the unknown victim already died, Vasquez said, and detectives believe foul play might have been involved but haven't released details about the investigation.
The Korea Times said family members told them they have no idea how Kim might have gotten from Queens to Woodbury because she doesn't drive and didn't speak English. There are no direct bus lines to the shopping mall, either. Kim's family had filed a missing persons report with the New York Police Department but it was apparently never added to a national database, according to the newspaper.
A call to the NYPD for comment was not immediately returned. Family members of Kim could not be immediately located.
Two Woodbury Common employees were walking home from the mall when they found the skull in late April. They said they never reported the discovery to police because they thought the bones were props or Halloween decorations. After one of them showed a phone camera photo of the remains to his supervisor at the outlet shops, the police were called.
Detectives didn't have much to work with when they found the remains, which consisted of a human skull and several bones scattered over a 400-foot radius in a wooded area about a half-mile from the outlet mall.
The body was completely decomposed, which meant an autopsy wasn't possible, so police worked with a State Police forensic identification team, called in an outside forensics expert, and cataloged personal belongings they found near the body.
Based on the preliminary investigation, detectives determined that the victim was Asian, between 4 feet, 5 inches and 5 feet, 2 inches tall. Tests suggested the victim was "possibly 50 years of age or older" when she died, police said.