Investigators Unearth Woman’s Remains Found in 1988 in Lower Yakima Valley | The missing


Authorities have exhumed the remains of a woman found in the lower Yakima Valley in 1988 to obtain her DNA in hopes of identifying her and returning her to her family.

Investigators met Thursday morning at the woman’s grave at West Hills Memorial Park, west of Yakima. They call her Parker Doe because she was found near the unincorporated town of Parker. A horseman discovered his remains on February 16, 1988, near a dirt road that leads from Parker Bridge Road to the Sunnyside Diversion Dam on the Yakima River.

She is believed to be Indigenous, or possibly Latina, and was around 30 to 39 years old, was around 5 feet tall, and weighed less than 120 pounds. The small sized clothes were still on Doe’s frame and his teeth showed no signs of dental work. Authorities estimated that she had been outside for four to ten months before being found.

They don’t know how she died. Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice said the cause of death was undetermined but it was a suspected homicide as his skeletal remains were found near where two other women had. been stabbed to death several months before Doe’s discovery. Due to drastic advances in DNA technology, investigators are closer than ever to being able to identify Doe.

Shortly before the 10 a.m. exhumation began, Gregg Kiona of Yakama Nation Cultural Resources and Emily Washines, Yakama Nation historian and advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous peoples and their families, joined investigators around from Doe’s grave. Dozens of Indigenous people who have gone missing, murdered and mysteriously died on and around the 1.3 million acre Yakama Reservation over the decades. Many cases go unresolved.

Media representatives standing at a distance stopped recording as Kiona sang a Yakama song in honor of Doe. Whether she was indigenous or not, it was important that they were there, said Washines, who wore traditional badges.

“Our songs are our way of communicating and of praying for the next steps,” Washines said.

Curtice and Peter Orth, senior resident agent supervising the FBI’s satellite office in Yakima, had already been in West Hills for about two hours. The FBI will reimburse Yakima County for the cost of Doe’s exhumation, which Curtice said was $ 3,983. The FBI is working with Curtice and the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, which is handling the investigation. Detective Sgt. Jason Pepper, Chief of Detectives in the Sheriff’s Office, attended and assisted with the exhumation.

“At this point, we don’t know if the woman is Native American or not and we may not know until an examination of the remains is completed,” said Steve Bernd, spokesperson for the FBI. . The FBI is charged with investigating serious crimes involving tribal citizens on reservations.

Investigators take pictures

Investigators take photographs of a box containing the remains of a woman found near Parker in 1988 at West Hills Memorial Park on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in Yakima, Washington.

“Once the identification is done, we will discuss with our partners to determine who might be best placed to conduct an investigation,” he said. “What’s important to note is that the goal here is to identify the body and close a family somewhere.”

Doe was buried in early 1989 in a particleboard box placed in a concrete vault with a cover. West Hills workers opened the grave and the concrete cover of the vault was cracked causing dirt to fall on the chipboard box. Investigators wanted to clear it up and be thorough, but respectful, in case there was anything important in it.

Curtice began by carefully shoveling the dirt. Amber Ross, an evidence technician from the Yakima Police Department, sifted some of it and spread more over a large tarp over the grave, walking through it gently with gloved hands. Pepper then took over to shovel dirt into a bucket held by Curtice while Ross sifted it.

Rod Shaw, a retired Sheriff’s Office detective, watched. Shaw was the first investigator into Doe’s case. “I hope they find an answer” for his identity, he said.

Shaw stood ready to help after Marshall Slight, Yakima County Deputy Chief Coroner, brought long straps to slide under the box so it could be removed. A West Hills employee brought a few extra straps and the men worked together to pick up the box and place it on the tarp. They then lifted him onto a stretcher to transport him to the coroner’s office.

The process took about an hour, which was faster than Curtice expected. And even though it was cold, the sun was shining. “I’m grateful for the time we’ve had. And I appreciate the cooperation from West Hills,” he said.

Doe’s remains will be turned over to the King County Medical Examiner’s office, which has his skull. The skull was moved there this summer after years of storage at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, where it was taken for a clay reconstruction in the 1980s.

“They will match the skull they have to these remains with DNA,” Curtice said. “The timeline is not yet set. It’s kind of a step-by-step process. Getting it out of the ground has been the biggest step so far.”

Investigators released a new digital portrait of her last month.

Parker Doe

This portrait by forensic artist Natalie Murry is a recreation of the woman whose remains were found in February 1988 near Parker Dam in the lower Yakima Valley. Photo courtesy of Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice.

Curtice praised the efforts of investigators. “For me it was great working with the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office and the King County Medical Examiner’s Office,” he said.

Washines echoed his appreciation for the cooperative efforts of so many to identify Doe after so long.

“Seeing multiple jurisdictions working together is a big part of these cases and seeing how the original detective came back means a lot,” she said.

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