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Remains found over 50 years ago identified through DNA technology as Oregon teen

PORTLAND, Ore. — The remains of a teenager found more than 50 years ago have been identified through advanced DNA technology as a young woman who went missing from Portland, Oregon State Police said.

The remains are that of Sandra Young, a high school student who disappeared in 1968 or 1969, police said Thursday in a news release.

“Sandra Young has now regained her identity after 54 years,” Dr. Nici Vance, Human Identification Program Coordinator at the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office, said in the news release, noting the diligence and collaboration between family members, law enforcement, medical examiner staff and DNA company Parabon NanoLabs.

“This is yet another example of the innovative ways the ME’s Office and investigative genetic genealogy can help Oregonians find closure,” Vance said.

A Boy Scout troop leader found the remains on Feb. 23, 1970. Police say Young’s skeleton was found on Sauvie Island in the Columbia River, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Portland.

Investigators believed trauma to her body indicated foul play, but what happened to her is still unknown.

In 2004, Young’s remains were moved to the state medical examiner facility in suburban Portland, along with over 100 additional sets of unidentified remains, police said.

A DNA sample from Young’s remains was uploaded into a computer software program database of DNA profiles at the time but no genetic associations were found.

A grant awarded to the Oregon State Police Medical Examiner’s Office in 2018 allowed for more extensive DNA testing and DNA company Parabon NanoLabs in 2021 was able to generate a prediction of Young’s facial characteristics.

In 2023, someone who uploaded their DNA into the genetic genealogy database GEDMatch was recognized as a potential distant family member of Young. With others then uploading their DNA, more matches were found and family trees developed.

Those family members indicated Young went missing around the time the remains were found.

After Young’s sister uploaded a DNA sample and talked with a Portland police detective, genetic evidence confirmed the remains belonged to Young, police said.

Genetic genealogy casework and confirmation testing have shown successful results but can cost up to $10,000 per case, police said.

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