DENVER (CBS4) – One of the unidentified victims of infamous Green River killer Gary Ridgway has now been identified as a 14-year-old runaway from Denver. Wendy Stephens is considered Ridgway’s youngest victim.
Stephens ran away from her Denver home in 1983. In 1984, her remains were discovered in an area near what is now Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in King County, Washington.
In 2003, Ridgway pleaded guilty to murdering 48 women. At the time, four of Ridgway’s victims remained unknown.
In 2019, the King County Sheriff’s Office began working with forensic anthropologist Dr. Katherine Taylor, the DNA Doe Project (DDP), and other scientists. Using genetic genealogy, they were able to clearly identify one of the four victims as Stephens.
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It turned out that in early 2019 one of the victim’s parents had taken a DNA test and uploaded the results to GEDmatch in hopes of finding out their daughter’s fate. This parent was unaware that GEDmatch changed the setting for this kit in May 2019 as part of its new law enforcement access policy.
“Since the parents’ kit was still disabled when Jane Doe uploaded data in September 2020, the team did not have this vital link that would have resolved the case immediately,” investigators said.
DDP paid for the data to be uploaded to FamilyTreeDNA and was able to narrow it down to Stephens.
Ridgway received 48 life sentences with no parole. Ridgway is still serving his sentence in a Washington prison.
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