Lake County Sheriff’s Office & California DOJ Partner with Othram to Identify a 1979 Homicide Victim

After nearly 50 years, a woman whose remains were found in a wooded area off Highway 175 in the unincorporated area of Lakeport, California, has been identified as Wanda Lee Brewer.
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Published May 16, 2024 by Michael Vogen
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Summary

In September 1979, a hunter stumbled upon skeletal remains in the area of Highway 175 between mile markers .80 and .83 in Lake County, California, just northwest of Sacramento. Investigators were called to the scene and determined that the remains were that of a female whose ancestry could not be definitively determined. The woman was estimated to be between 25 and 35 years old at her time of death, which was estimated to be between 1976 and 1979. The woman’s height was determined to be between 5’1’’ and 5’4”. No other identifying characteristics could be determined.

In June 2019, case details were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP58032. With limited identifying characteristics available, the woman's identity remained unknown for nearly five decades despite the efforts of law enforcement. Throughout the years, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) followed up with the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) to use emerging technology to identify this Jane Doe.

In 2023, the California Department of Justice in collaboration with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas in hopes that advanced DNA testing and forensic genetic genealogy could help generate new leads and identify the woman. Othram's casework costs for the case were provided by the Roads to Justice (RTJ) program. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from the forensic evidence and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown woman. Once the profile was successfully built, Othram’s in-house forensic genetic genealogy team produced new investigative leads that were provided to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Using these new leads, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office continued their investigation which led to genetic relatives of the woman. A reference sample was collected from a potential relative and compared to the DNA profile of the woman. This comparison confirmed the identity of Lake County Jane Doe as Wanda Lee Brewer. Brewer was born in Arkansas and later moved to California. An investigation into the circumstances around Brewer's death continues.

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Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381
media@othram.com

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. With dnasolves.com anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.