GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 25 years after a woman’s body washed ashore in Manistee County, she has been identified.
In a Monday release, Michigan State Police identified the body as that of Dorothy Lynn (Thyng) Ricker.
She had last been seen in Wisconsin on Oct. 2, 1997, in the town of St. Francis, about 10 miles south of Milwaukee. According to her missing person’s report, Ricker was seen by police sitting on a bench along the Lake Michigan lakeshore and told them she was “enjoying the lakefront and the sun.” It wasn’t until the next day that police found a nearby abandoned vehicle that traced back to her.
Ricker’s body was found Oct. 27, 1997, washing ashore unclothed in Manistee County. An autopsy determined the cause of death was drowning and the manner of death was an accident.
The MSP Missing Persons Coordination Unit reexamined the case in September 2020, exhuming the body to run more advanced DNA testing.
A DNA sample was turned over to Astrea Forensics and the DNA Doe Project for Forensic Genetic Genealogy. DNA Doe found a potential brother from the Thyng family in Maine and a potential daughter living in Chicago, along with news stories out of Wisconsin detailing Ricker’s disappearance.
It wasn’t until December 2022 that detectives were able to confirm the remains belonged to Ricker. The 25-year-old bone samples were too degraded for “traditional testing” and were sent to Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, Utah, for advanced testing, which confirmed the findings.
MSP touted the work that groups like FGG and Intermountain Forensics continue to do for families and the science community.
“Forensic Genetic Genealogy continues to unlock mysteries and provide families with answers about their loved ones,” MSP said in a release. “Although DNA testing wasn’t possible when Dorothy Ricker died, investigators are grateful that it brings her family some resolution today.”