Investigators appeal for new info in cold case

LITTLE VALLEY – Traci Douglass was never reported missing. She moved from Maryland to the area in 2001 and was last seen five years later.

But in 2009, a fisherman walking along the coast of the Kinzua Reservoir in South Valley stumbled across skeletal remains. Forensic testing done last year in Erie, Pa., and later in New York City confirmed Douglass’ identity.

More than 400 leads into her death have been investigated by the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities on Wednesday officially appealed for more.

“The investigation at this point leads us to believe there are people in the public that have direct information that will assist us in closing this investigation,” Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb said at a press conference in Little Valley.

Whitcomb would not comment whether Douglass’ death is being ruled as a homicide or accidental, but noted the cause was not natural. The sheriff asked anyone who may have previously contacted a police agency outside the sheriff’s office to call cold case investigators.

“Some people seem to be reluctant or scared,” Whitcomb said. “I want to make a very clear point to those people: if you have information on Ms. Douglass’ death, and you have chosen for whatever reason to not come forward to law enforcement, I would ask you to reconsider your decision.

“You can be part of the solution and assist us and answer questions or you are in a position to be part of the problem.”

Little new information into the death of Douglass, 39, was revealed Wednesday. Investigators said they have a good timeline when Douglass went missing around the Salamanca area, but declined further comment.

Whitcomb said people of interest have been interviewed, but would not say whether the sheriff’s office has any suspects. The sheriff, though, said he was optimistic the case will be resolved.

“It remains an open, active investigation,” he said. “Leads continue to come into this office.”

Anyone with information into Douglass’ death is asked to contact cold case investigators Joe Magiera at 938-2205 or 498-3245 or John Ensell at 938-2261 or 597-4298.