A partial human skull detected decades ago by the United States Forest Service workers atop Mount Hood, Ore. was matched through DNA analysis to a missing young woman.
The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office is requesting the public for help in the decades-old cold case of 19-year-old Wanda Ann Herr, who vanished in the late 1970s.
Investigators are anticipating the information will aid in determining what led to the demise of Herr. According to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, the mystery was initiated in 1986 when two Forest Service workers stumbled upon the partial skull with a number of bone fragments and one tooth near Government Camp off US 26.
Authorities released a sketch and physical reconstruction in 2017. But no other important insights were garnered until 2019 when they carried out DNA phenotyping or the procedure of determining an individual's appearance and ancestry from DNA.
The skull had been in the woods for an estimated decade. The case impeded until 2008 when a state police forensic anthropologist made a reassessment of the skull.
The sheriff's office is currently appealing to the public for help in determining how exactly she passed away. According to a press release, "Cold case detectives continue working to piece together more of Herr's background and story, including what led to her disappearance and death," reported Oxygen.
It took investigators until 2008, following the initial finding of the skull piece, to specify it had belonged to a young woman.
According to the sheriff's office, "This new info, combined with extensive genealogical research, soon revealed a likely name for the young woman: Wanda Ann Herr, born in 1957," reported Newser.
They added it confirmed the finding with Herr's surviving siblings' DNA. They stated Herr grew up in a different household and could have been residing in the Portland suburb of Gresham's group home when she vanished sometime following June 1976.
With the new data that emerged, an imaging specialist developed a facial reconstruction through clay. Officials stated the reconstruction prompted leads but eventually resulted in no progressive momentum.
The remains were archived and re-curated at the Clackamas County Medical Examiner's Office in 2005.
In 2008, almost 22 years following the initial discovery, the State Forensic Anthropologist with the Oregon State Police Dr. Nici Vance, reevaluated the skull.
The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office had an opportunity to begin DNA analysis on over 100 sets of unidentified remains in 2019. The Mount Hood skull is one of them.
According to the sheriff's office in a statement, "The intensive genetic analysis revealed far more detail about the subject: The skull belonged to a female of Northern European descent with fair skin, hazel/brown eyes, brown hair, and some freckles. This new info, combined with extensive genealogical research, soon revealed a likely name for the young woman: Wanda Ann Herr, born in 1957," reported Oregonlive.
When Herr vanished, she resided in a group home in Portland, Gresham, during the time.