Police turn to social media in death of Copake woman

GREENPORT—The body of a woman found in a wooded area off Old Post Road near Rabbit Lane in Kinderhook in the early morning hours of September 10 has been positively identified as Halle P. Schmidt, 21, of Pumpkin Hollow Road, Copake, according to a press release from Sheriff David P. Bartlett.

Ms. Schmidt was reported missing by family members September 4.

But locating the missing woman’s body is just the start. Now investigators must find out how she ended up in Kinderhook, how she died and if anyone else was involved.

Following the identification of the body, the Sheriff’s Office released surveillance camera footage Tuesday, September 13, of a woman believed to be a potential witness in the investigation of Ms. Schmidt’s death.

A press release from Sheriff’s Office described the unidentified woman in the footage as “a white female in her early-to-mid-20s, of unknown height and weight but believed to be of thin build. She may go by the name of Molly. She has blonde hair which may or may not be in a bun. She may possibly be from the Troy/Cohoes area. It is believed that she was picked up at the Dinosaur Barbeque restaurant in Troy on Friday, September 2, 2016 in a dark gray 2016 Dodge Challenger and brought to the Greenport/Hudson area. Information received during the course of the investigation also indicates that she may be estranged from her family. This information however has not been able to be verified,” said the release sent to news agencies and posted on social media.

Within minutes of releasing the information, tips poured in to the Sheriff’s Office and within a couple of hours, investigators had positively identified the woman, according to a follow-up release. Sheriff’s Office investigators have made contact with her and were interviewing her Tuesday evening, September 13.

“Social media has proven to be essential for keeping the public informed of cases and incidents of interest, and also a means for the public to help the Sheriff’s Office; like today, by providing information when it was needed most,” the release said.

Sheriff Bartlett thanked everyone who was involved with the social media post and who contacted the Sheriff’s Office with tips identifying the potential witness.

Identification of Ms. Schmidt’s body was made through evidence found and collected at the scene by the State Police Forensic Identification Unit and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office evidence technicians.

The positive identification came at the conclusion of an autopsy conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, Sunday morning September 11.

Ms. Schmidt was identified by matching clothing that she was last seen wearing, tattoos on her body and information that was obtained through the investigation.

She was last seen on foot in the area of State Route 66 and Route 23B in Greenport during the early morning hours of Saturday, September 3.

The case is still under active criminal investigation and leads are being followed up by Sheriff’s Office investigators, who have been working closely with Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka and his office since the investigation started.

DNA and other samples were taken during the autopsy and sent for laboratory analysis to determine the cause of death, DA Czajka said by phone September 12.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Branch at 518 828-4316 or 518 828-3344.

To contact Diane Valden email

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