Human remains discovered along the shoreline of Lake Michigan in western Michigan in 1997 have been identified as those of a Chicago woman last seen weeks earlier at a Wisconsin beachfront park, police said Monday.
According to Michigan State Police, forensic experts using advanced DNA analysis confirmed in December that the remains are those of Dorothy Lynn (Thyng) Ricker.
“Although DNA testing wasn’t possible when Dorothy Ricker died, investigators are grateful that it brings her family some resolution today,” police said in a news release.
Ricker, then 26, was last seen by officers from the St. Francis Police Department on Oct. 2, 1997, sitting on a bench at a Wisconsin lakefront park. She told officers she was from Chicago and was “she was from Chicago and was ‘enjoying the lakefront and the sun,'” according to state police.
The following day, an abandoned vehicle was discovered nearby, and its license plate revealed that it belonged to a person listed as “missing/endangered” by the Chicago Police Department. According to state police, this information was unknown at the time the officers spoke with Ricker.
Human remains were discovered along the lake in Manistee County, western Michigan, on October 27, 1997. An autopsy revealed that the person died of asphyxia as a result of accidental drowning, but the remains could not be identified.
According to state police, the remains were exhumed in 2020, and bone samples were sent to Astrea Forensics as part of the DNA Doe Project for Forensic Genetic Genealogy. The following year, police were notified of a possible genetic link to the Thyng family of Acton, Maine.
Police said DNA samples were obtained from Ricker’s possible brother and a possible daughter who lived in Chicago.
Because Ricker’s badly degraded bone samples were unsuitable for “traditional testing,” they were sent to Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, Utah, for advanced analysis, which helped confirm Ricker’s identity.
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