Missing Heiress's Remains Identified, But Puzzle Lingers -- Who Killed Cross-Dressing Dog Breeder?

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A skeleton found hidden on the remote estate of a missing transvestite heiress has been identified as the woman's remains.

Authorities also said yesterday that the woman, champion dog breeder Camilla Lyman, had been murdered. Her skeleton was dumped into a septic tank.

There had been little, if any, doubt that the remains were Lyman's. But proving it took more than a year and required the aid of dental records and use of the FBI lab in Washington, D.C.

Lyman, who dressed like a man and called herself Cam, disappeared from her Victorian house in Hopkinton, R.I., in 1987. The daughter of an affluent Bostonian will finally rest in peace in her family's plot in Massachusetts.

But who wanted her dead? And why?

"No comment," said John Scuncio, chief of the Hopkinton police, who is conducting the murder investigation along with state police.

The skeleton was discovered in Lyman's septic tank on Sept. 24, 1997, by two men who had purchased her 40-acre estate.

Little police work was done to find Lyman after she vanished. A fellow dog breeder who took care of her business affairs, George O'Neil, said at the time it was not unusual for her to leave home for extended periods.

Fifty-four years old when she disappeared, Lyman had few friends and built a stockade-style fence around her house.

She grew a mustache with the help of steroids intended for her dogs, sported a man's haircut and wore herringbone jackets. She had little contact with her family.

She was the daughter of Arthur Lyman, who before his death had more than 30 years of public service in Massachusetts, including stints as commissioner of corrections and commissioner of conservation.

The first real investigation into Lyman's disappearance was opened early last year by Scuncio, shortly after he took over as police chief.

A former state police detective, Scuncio brought in a cadaver-sniffing state police dog to search the grounds of Lyman's estate.

Greg Siner and Gardner Young, the property's new owners, thought the septic system had overflowed. When they opened the tank, they saw Lyman's skull.

After Lyman disappeared, her spaniels and her property were maintained by O'Neil. He was one of Lyman's few close friends, had power of attorney over her affairs and was the sole beneficiary in her will, according to testimony at a 1994 probate hearing dealing with Lyman's estate.

O'Neil has denied having anything to do with Lyman's disappearance.

Police learned that Lyman had vanished in December 1988, when her brother filed a missing-persons report with the Hopkinton police.

Charles John Allen, a private investigator initially hired by Lyman's siblings to locate her, has been assisting police. He has been attempting to locate as much as $4 million in stocks and other assets once in Lyman's possession.

Mary Margaret Goodale, Lyman's sister, had long assumed her sister was dead and is relieved the body has been identified. Some years ago, she had a headstone for Camilla put up at the family plot.

"Finally," she said, "I can have her buried in the family cemetery."