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Investigators turn to the public for help after part of a skull found in an Oregon wilderness area has been identified as a teenage girl who has been missing for decades.
Two U.S. Forest Service workers found the partial human skull in 1986 near Government Camp, Oregon which is not far from Mt. Hood, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said in a Thursday press release. For decades the identity of the skull remained a mystery — that is, until it was solved earlier this year when genetic and genealogical investigators identified the skull as Wanda Ann Herr, 19, a girl who vanished in the late 1970s.
While her identity is now clear, what happened to her is not. The sheriff’s office is now asking the public for help in identifying how Herr died.
“Cold case detectives continue working to piece together more of Herr’s background and story, including what led to her disappearance and death,” the press release stated.
After the initial finding of the skull piece, it took investigators until 2008 to determine that it had belonged to a young woman or teen. A physical reconstruction of the face and a sketch were then released to the public in 2017, Fox12 Oregon reported at the time. But it didn’t result in any identification.
Then, last year, the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office received a grant to perform forensic genetic genealogy and DNA phenotyping — a method that predicts one’s appearance based on their DNA — on unidentified human skeletal remains cases. This, along with extensive genealogical research, prompted investigators to believe that the skull could have been Herr's. A DNA test they conducted with her living sisters confirmed her identity earlier this year.
Herr is believed to have vanished some time after June 1976 when she was 19. She may have been living in a group home around Gresham, Oregon. No official missing persons report was filed.
“Info about Wanda is scarce,” the press release stated. “ [...] She had no DMV record, no bank account, and there are no police reports that mention her.”
There also doesn’t appear to be any photos of her from around the time she vanished or from even a few years prior. Investigators included a photo of her when she was 12.
Detectives urge anyone who knew or met Herr, or her associates, in the 1970s, as well as anyone with information at all, to contact the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office at 503-723-4949 or https://www.clackamas.us/sheriff/tip and reference case 86-025724.
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