After 25 Years, DNA Testing Identifies Manistee County Jane Doe

1/9/23 11:00 p.m.

After 25 years, a missing woman has been connected to a Jane Doe who washed ashore near Manistee.

Dorothy Ricker went missing in Milwaukee on October 2, 1997. Now police know she is the person who washed ashore near Manistee on October 27 of that year, all thanks to DNA technology not available way back then.Manistee Jane Doe Pkg 1 9 2300 00 44 14still001

Ricker’s body washed ashore just south of the city of Manistee and at the time she had no identifying marks, no clothes, except for a single earring, and no one truly knew who this woman was or where she came from. After the advancement of DNA testing they are able to put a name to the victim, and also bring some closure to our family across the country.

“We’ve always had a pretty good idea of who the person was that washed up on shore,” said Lt. Derrick Carroll of Michigan State Police, “Just based on the timeline and what we knew, but we were never able to positively identify the person.”

In October 1997, there was no way to know who she was. No DNA test would tell and no nearby missing person reports matched up. It sat as a cold case until the Michigan State Police opened it back up two years ago. Forensic investigators exhumed the body and tested again.

“In December 2022, we were able to identify the remains using the DNA Doe Project and their family genealogy,” said Lt. Carroll.

The DNA Doe Project uses the best DNA testing procedures and compares that to genealogy databases to find family members, test them and narrow in on a name.

For this case they found Ricker’s brother in Maine and daughter in Chicago. With their help, they knew it was Dorothy.

“There are things we’re doing today, we couldn’t do even five years ago,” said Lt. Carroll.

The case was ruled an accidental drowning back then and that hasn’t changed. No charges will come of this. What will come, is peace of mind for her family who always assumed, but never exactly knew, what happened to Dorothy.

“In this case, it brought some closure to a family. We have a daughter here that we identified in Chicago and now she can say that was her mother and she has in fact passed,” said Lt. Carroll, “And this is what happened to her.”

1/9/23 9:55 a.m.

A woman whose body washed up on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Manistee County in 1997 has been identified.

On Oct. 27, 1997, Michigan State Police Manistee Post responded to reports that an unclothed woman with no identifying attire other than a single earring had washed up on the beach.

Troopers tried to ID the woman, but no credible leads were found. An autopsy of the woman determined the cause of death to be asphyxia due to drowning, and the manner of death an accident.

The case went cold until September 2020, when detectives with the MSP Cadillac Post and the MSP Missing Persons Coordination Unit re-examined the case and exhumed the individual for advanced DNA testing. Bone samples were sent to Astrea Forensics under the DNA Doe Project for Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG).

In July 2021, a possible familial match was located via FGG; the names were supplied from the DNA Doe Project to the Michigan State Police for vetting. The DNA Doe Project uses Investigative Genetic Genealogy, which results in the generation of leads to identify the deceased.

The possible connection linked the unidentified woman to the Thyng family in Acton, Maine. With the assistance of the York County Sheriff’s Office in Maine, familial DNA reference samples from a possible brother were obtained. It was also learned by detectives that a possible daughter of the unidentified female was currently residing in Chicago. Familial DNA reference samples were then obtained by MSP Cadillac Post detectives from her. The DNA Doe Project also located news articles from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from 1997 detailing the unidentified woman’s contacts just prior to her going missing.

Further DNA testing was needed for positive identification. Due to the degraded state of the bone samples, they were found to not be suitable for traditional testing. The bone samples were subsequently shipped to Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, Utah for positive identification through advanced Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). In December 2022, the DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) and Intermountain Forensics was able to confirm the identity of the unidentified female as Dorothy Lynn (Thyng) Ricker.

Ricker was last seen in Wisconsin on Oct. 2, 1997, at 12:30 p.m. by St. Francis Police Department (Wisconsin) police officers. At that time, Ricker was sitting on a Lake Michigan beach park bench. The officers briefly talked to her. She mentioned she was from Chicago and was “enjoying the lakefront and the sun.” When contacted by police officers, she had not yet been reported missing and nothing appeared abnormal.

The next day an abandoned vehicle was found nearby. When police officers ran the registration plate it came back to a “missing/endangered person” entered by the Chicago Police Department. Ricker was 26 years old and resided in Chicago at the time she went missing.


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