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Remains of Missing Manhattan Beach Woman Found in Santa Monica Mountains

For more than two years, Kirk Moody never gave up hope that he would once again see his missing wife, Nancy Paulikas, alive.

But Wednesday, after marking his third Christmas without her, the Manhattan Beach man received a phone call that put an end to his long search. Skeletal remains found last year at a park in the Santa Monica Mountains were identified through DNA as Nancy.

“I'm going to miss her smiling face,” Moody said. “She had a tremendous intellect and she was very outgoing, super outgoing. She was the light of my life.”

The DNA match brought a sad finish to a quest that began Oct. 15, 2016, when the 55-year-old retired computer engineer diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease became separated from her husband at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard. A massive search with police dogs failed to locate her. From the start, police investigators and Moody knew she could be anywhere.

How Nancy made her way to Fossil Ridge Park off Beverly Glen Boulevard and Mulholland Drive might forever be unknown, but she could have walked from the museum through the streets of Beverly Hills and into the canyon. Grainy security camera video from nearby stores showed Nancy walking on Wilshire Boulevard and turning on a side street. Moody described her as a strong walker.

Although Moody did not know until Wednesday, firefighters found a partial charred skull while battling a brush fire at the park on March 11, 2017. The remains were there long before the fire, Manhattan Beach police Detective Mike Rosenberger said.

About four months ago, ribs were located. Both were used in the identification, Rosenberger said.

Rosenberger said he drove to the site on Wednesday, describing it as very steep and rugged terrain about 200 yards off the road. Nancy, he said, could have fallen.

"You wonder how she got to such an obscure location,” Rosenberger said. “We don’t know what happened. We just know where her remains ended up.”

Coroner’s officials confirmed Nancy’s death, saying the cause remained undetermined. More information might be released later, spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.

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From the time Nancy disappeared without money or identification, her husband and an army of volunteers that included Nancy’s parents, mounted their own campaign to find her. "SoCal Connected" documented their journey, which included visits to hundreds of nursing facilities, hospitals and homeless encampments, hoping she had somehow landed in one of them and had been identified. Moody called it a “part-time job.”

Watch the SoCal Connected segment, "Where's Nancy?"

As late as last week, Rosenberger — the lead detective on the case because Moody reported his wife missing to the Manhattan Beach Police Department — had received a ream of Los Angeles Police Department radio call summaries to look through, hoping to find any report of a suspicious person walking the streets near the museum. Not giving up, Rosenberger said he had planned to visit the county morgue soon to research decedents without next of kin to see if anyone had been misidentified.

Moody said the discovery had helped to provide some relief. His efforts to find her, which included utilizing the media, helped lead to changes in how authorities look for missing people, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Spurred by Nancy’s story, County Supervisor Janice Hahn pushed for a program for tracking bracelets that give off signals that can be monitored by sheriff’s deputies when someone goes missing.

“There’s no question there’s been a very positive outcome here,” Moody said. “Now the county has much more coordination on how to handle preparedness for it and finding people once they are lost…The police have a common checklist of things to do when a person goes missing.”

In addition, Moody helped to identify other missing people. Nursing homes contacted him with anonymous patients, wondering if they could be Nancy. One was reunited with her family. Some homicide victims also were identified, Moody said.

Moody said he will plan a memorial service for his wife. Today, hundreds of people offered condolences on the Facebook page, “Nancy is Missing,” where Moody made the announcement that she had died.

“I’m so sorry to read the news,” wrote Stephanie Stone. “She came to mean so much for so many, and your work to find her has helped so many. We now have the LA-Found system in LA County because of your search for Nancy. Sending my thoughts and prayers to the family.”

Said Diane Miller: “So very sad to hear this news. I know it was not the outcome everyone, myself included, was hoping for. But I would like to think that it is Nancy’s Christmas gift to her loved ones, that they have closure and do not have to live with the anxiety and fear anymore.

“She is at peace, and now hopefully her loved ones can also have some peace. God Bless.”

 

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