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Remains identified as teen missing for over 50 years after DNA uploaded to genealogy database

Sandra Young

PORTLAND, Oreg. — Human remains found in 1970 were finally identified after more than five decades near Portland, Oregon.

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In February 1970, a Boy Scout troop leader found human remains buried in a shallow grave on Sauvie Island, according to CNN. The remains could not be identified.

Investigators at the time noticed that there was trauma to the body, which indicated to them that there was foul play involved, the Oregon State Police said.

The remains were moved to the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s facility in Clackamas County in 2004, police said. They were brought to the facility along with more than 100 other unidentified remains. At that time, a report was created that included a bone sample, which was submitted to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. A NamUs profile was also created.

The case had a break in January 2023 when a person had uploaded their DNA results to GEDMatch, a genealogy database, CNN reported.

GEDMatch had recognized a possible distant family member of the remains. Police conducted interviews, and did some additional research as a genetic genealogist worked with more family members to upload their DNA data to the database.

From there, a family tree was created, according to CNN. That led to the identification of the remains as Sandra Young.

Young was born on June 25, 1951, according to CNN. She was last seen in Portland. Her remains were found about 10 miles north of where she was last seen. Police said she went missing in 1968 or 1969.

“Sandra Young has now regained her identity after 54 years,” said Dr. Nici Vance, the state’s Human Identification Program Coordinator at the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office. “Her story represents a remarkable amount of diligence and collaboration between family members, detectives, Oregon State Medical Examiner staff, and our contract laboratory Parabon Nanolabs. This is yet another example of the innovative ways the ME’s Office and investigative genetic genealogy can help Oregonians find closure. This technology gives investigators the powerful ability to assist all Oregon agencies with the resolution of their cold case mysteries.”

Police are now working to determine the circumstances behind Young’s death if possible and other investigative efforts.