The Nisqually Indian Tribe recently donated $13,000 to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office in hopes of solving two cold case homicides that occurred near the Nisqually Reservation, one of which has gone nearly 40 years without any new evidence.
Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ray Brady said the funds will help the sheriff’s office pay for genealogy testing and specialized DNA processing in the two separate cold cases. The department is hoping genealogy test results will find a match through a federal database search, and Brady said he believes the likelihood of that happening and new leads developing is likely.
“It may be able to pinpoint someone else, such as a relative, that may be a partial match,” he said. “If not, it’ll reinvigorate the public and reinvigorate the department to look back into these cases.”
In an Oct. 3 Facebook post by the sheriff’s office, Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza was shown accepting a check from Nisqually Public Safety officers.
“TCSO would like to thank the Nisqually Indian Tribe for their continued partnership and commitment to justice,” the post read.
The two cases occurred in 2013 and 1981 and involve people finding what are believed to be body parts of deceased female homicide victims.
In October 1981, skeletal remains and other bone fragments were found by pedestrians just off Reservation Road near State Route 510 in a heavily forested area.
Thurston County investigators’ initial findings concluded that the victim’s remains had been out in the forest anywhere from two to 15 years. Because of that detail, the case soon went cold.
“They had been there for a while. They were skeletal, at that time. From testing on that, we do know that was a female as well. Approximately 25 to 30 years old,” Brady said.
Brady said the sheriff’s office in recent years has conducted additional searches around the area, but nothing new has come up.
The second case was opened more recently on Nov. 9, 2013, when a dog brought a human leg to its owner’s home on Peter Kalama Drive near the Nisqually Indian Reservation.
Subsequent searches by the sheriff’s office resulted in an arm, pelvis, rib cage, parts of a skull and jaw bone being found within a square mile of each other on the reservation.
According to a 2013 Nisqually Valley News article, the remains were found to be dismembered by human means and were spread by animals. The sheriff’s office also reported that the remains, found to be that of a woman with light-pigmented skin, were likely there for a month or so.
Despite cross referencing the victim’s remains with that of the county’s missing persons list, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office could not make a positive identification.
“To this day, we’ve never been able to identify her. It would be really beneficial to us and to her family for us to verify (her) identify,” Brady said.
Evidence collected from both these cases will be sent off to a private lab for further tests thanks in part to the tribe’s donation.
“Ultimately, our goal is to solve these cases. But in the short term, you have to look at it as (though) you’re trying to identify victims and bring closure to their families,” Brady said.
Brady said he believes if the samples from these two cases are good enough, the likelihood of getting matches through genealogy testing is high.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office currently has 18 cold cases related to homicides on file. These cases often lack a trail of evidence and span decades.
The most recent cold case to experience a development was that of the 2009 disappearance of Nancy Moyer, which found new leads earlier this year after Eric Lee Roberts, 53, of Rochester, called 911 to turn himself in for the alleged murder of Nancy Moyer, a Tenino woman.
He later denied any role in the death and claimed he didn’t remember calling 911 and has since been released from custody.
The case is still being investigated, according to officials from the sheriff’s office.