Cold Case: woman's remains unidentified after 19 years - KPTV - FOX 12

Cold Case: Woman's remains unidentified after 19 years

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A sketch showed her prominent cheek bones, broad forehead and wide eyes, but for 19 years, the name of a Portland woman found dead has remained a mystery.

Now, Portland police have renewed the effort to identify her remains and determine exactly how she died.

They're getting a helping hand from Dr. Nici Vance, a forensic anthropologist with the Oregon medical examiner's office.

"I was simply going through the 1993 case files and looking at mysterious deaths, unexplained deaths, suspicious deaths and unidentified people and this was one of the files that I pulled," said Vance.

On Sept. 9, 1993, the body of a woman, between 30 and 40 years old, was found on the east bank of the Willamette River, south of the Burlington-Northern railroad bridge.

Investigators said an autopsy determined she had drowned. The cause of death was determined, but not the manner of death. Detectives said there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

"The way her clothes were, the condition her clothes were in not what I would expect to see from someone who jumped into the water," said Terry Wagner, a cold case investigator.

In 1993, there was no conclusion to the case, so the remains were cremated.

While there is no DNA profile, Vance said there's still plenty of circumstantial information about the woman.

They have dental records, two sketches of her face and a sketch of a silver ring with a distinctive roadrunner that the woman was wearing when she was found. They also know a bit about the woman's medical history.

"Very specific things," Vance said. "She had a cesarean scar, which obviously said she gave birth at some point. She had just recently lost quite a bit of weight."

That information is now in a national database, called NamUs. Vance described the site as revolutionary. NamUs consolidates information about missing persons and unidentified remains, free to the public.

"It's amalgamated, it's all there and it's public, which is a huge deal for us," she said.

Right now, there are 81 people in Oregon, dating back to the 1960s, whose remains are unidentified.

Police said it's possible this woman is from out of state and someone across the country may know her identity.

"They are mysteries," said Vance. "These are the kinds of things that keep me coming back day after day."

If you have a missing loved one, you can easily upload the information at

If you have any information about this crime, you can leave a Crime Stoppers tip online at, text CRIMES (274637) and in the subject line put 823HELP, followed by your tip, or call 503-823-HELP (4357) and leave your tip information.

Visit to download the Crime Stoppers app for the iPhone or Droid.

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