Missing Sequim Woman Identified Through DNA
In December of 2021 a woman's shoe, with a foot inside, was found near the mouth of the Elwha River. The Clallam County Sheriff's Department has been trying to determine the identity of the woman ever since. After 14 months, and with the help of a third party DNA service, they finally got their answer.
Investigators did not have much to work with outside of a size 8 women's New Balance sneaker with the foot inside. How the foot was retrieved without the rest of the body also raised questions.
Technology and Nature are the culprits
The advancements in running shoes have made them more buoyant, much lighter, and therefore more likely to float. Fish in the river go after the soft tissue areas of human bodies and soft tissue areas tend to be around the ankles. When that is eaten away it can create the dynamic where the foot will float to the surface inside a buoyant sneaker.
The Clallam County Sheriff's Department had no real leads and turned to a third party DNA testing company, Othram Labs in the Woodlands, Texas, to find out if advanced DNA testing technology could help establish a lead or an identity for their foot. A crowdfund was established to pay for the cost and a DNA profile, with leads, was created by Othram.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Bureau reached out to a family member who was then willing to donate a DNA sample. That lead to the foot foot being positively identified as belonging to Jerilyn L Smith of Sequim. Jerilyn was 68-years-old when she disappeared January7th of 2018.