Chesterton Tribune

DNA database helps ID Portage woman 30 years after her mysterious death

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The Portage Police Department and the Monroe County, Mich., Sheriff’s Office are reporting the identification of a Portage woman who was allegedly the victim of a homicide in 1982.

Formally known as “Monroe County Jane Doe 1982”, Kimberly Wuerthele’s family reported her missing on June 22, 1982 after they had not seen her since she jumped from a car in February that year when family members were taking her to Chicago to get her help for an addiction problem, police said. Wuerthele was 21 years old at the time.

On March 31, 1982 an unidentified female body washed up on Lake Erie in Monroe, Mich. and the case was ruled a homicide after an autopsy was performed, police said.

In 2008, Portage Detective Corporal Janis Regnier began looking for possible leads in the case through dental records and state driver’s license databases but was unsuccessful.

Monroe County Police in March 2009 exhumed Wuerthele’s body for the purpose of obtaining DNA for identification purposes. Along with several agencies including the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, DNA specimens were collected and sent to the University of North Texas Health Science Center for entry into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and NamUs, an online database where family, law enforcement and coroners or medical examiners can upload information on missing persons and unidentified remains.

Regnier also found out about the new DNA database at the University of North Texas which tests family DNA in hopes of matching it up with the DNA from the remains of unidentified persons.

In February 2011, Regnier was able to locate Wuerthele’s two brothers and one agreed a year later to submit his DNA for the database.

On July 2, 2012 the DNA was subsequently matched to the remains of “Monroe County Jane Doe 1982.”

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is still actively pursuing the homicide investigation. Anyone with information about the case of Kimberly Wuerthele is urged to contact Detective Jeff Pauli of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office at (734)240-7530 or (734)240-7745.

Posted 7/20/2012