Body parts found years apart at Kern County lake are of missing Orange County woman

Human remains discovered at Kern County's Buena Vista Lake have been identified as those of O.C. resident Shirley Mae Cassel.
Human remains found at Kern County’s Buena Vista Lake in 2018 and this summer have been identified as those of 64-year-old Shirley Mae Cassel, who was reported missing from Santa Ana in 2017.
(Santa Ana Police Department)

Remains that were found in a Kern County lake this summer, as well as body parts discovered there more than two years ago, have both been identified as belonging to an Orange County woman who was reported missing in 2017, authorities said this week.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday that DNA testing had confirmed the identity of 64-year-old Shirley Mae Cassel.

Her remains were pulled from a vehicle submerged in Buena Vista Lake, about 30 miles southwest of Bakersfield, on July 12, according to sheriff’s officials — almost two years after her lower leg and foot were found in the area on July 28, 2018.


Lt. Joel Swanson said Friday that Kern County authorities “don’t suspect foul play” and believe Cassel’s death may have been an accident.

Cassel was reported missing by her landlord Sept. 11, 2017, according to the Santa Ana Police Department. She was last seen at her residence on Aug. 21 of that year.

Santa Ana authorities said at the time that it appeared Cassel had left in her vehicle.

Swanson said Kern County officials have closed their part of the investigation. Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said that the positive identification closes his department’s missing person’s case as well.

“If there was some criminal piece to this, it would be their case,” Bertagna said, referring to Kern County, “and we would assist them.”