In January 1991, human remains were found in a wash area at the base of a hill in the area west of Avenue 62 and Madison Street in Thermal. Only skeletal remains were found and they appeared to have been in the desert for a lengthy amount of time. Investigators noted that the remains belonged to a woman with short brown hair, with tones of red and gray. There were few other clues available as only partial remains were recovered. The case was submitted to NamUs as UP71659 and to ViCAP as 1999CMP00412. A subsequent investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department unfortunately produced no leads and the case, believed to be a suspicious death, went cold.
In early 2022, the Riverside District Attorney's Office contracted Othram to use advanced DNA testing to produce new leads in the case that might reveal the identity of the homicide victim or at least help find a close family member. Othram's laboratory team used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to generate a comprehensive DNA profile. This profile was delivered to investigators with the Riverside DA's Cold Case Team who used it to perform a genealogical search to find genetic relatives. Using the results of this search, the Riverside Cold Case Team was able to identify a candidate genetic relative. In August 2022, the California Department of Justice lab confirmed compared the DNA profile of the genetic relative and were able to tentatively identify the unknown woman as Kathryn Coffey, born January 8, 1954 from the Baldwin Park, California.
According to her family, Kathryn was last known to be in the Indio area around 1989-1990. They also told investigators that she graduated in the mid-1970s Phi Beta Kappa from Scripps College with a degree in English literature. The Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team is asking that anyone who may have any information about the victim or who may have seen anything suspicious in that area of Thermal in late January 1991 contact the team by calling 951-955-2777.