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She went missing 31 years ago in California desert. Sister’s DNA helps identify her

Undated handout photo of Kathryn Coffey
Through the use of forensic genealogy, the Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team announced that it identified a woman whose remains were found in Thermal more than 31 years ago. The remains were tentatively identified as Kathryn Coffey.
(Riverside County district attorney’s office)
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Through DNA, authorities have identified a woman whose remains were found 31 years ago in Thermal, Calif., according to the Riverside County district attorney’s office.

The Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team, led by the district attorney’s Bureau of Investigation, identified the remains as Kathryn Coffey, a Baldwin Park resident born in 1954.

Cold case investigators met with Coffey’s sister in June and obtained DNA, confirming on Aug. 8 that the remains were Coffey’s and notifying her family about the identification.

The body of missing 16-year-old Kiely Rodni is found in Prosser Reservoir, authorities confirm. The girl had last been seen at a party near Truckee, Calif.

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Human remains were found on Jan. 22, 1991, at the base of a hill near Avenue 62 and Madison Street, according to a district attorney’s office news release. Bones were found and appeared to have been there for a “lengthy amount of time.”

The case went cold after the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department couldn’t find leads on the case, which was believed to be a suspicious death, authorities said.

Coffey was last known to be in the Indio area between 1989 and 1990, according to her family. Coffey graduated from Scripps College in the mid-1970s.

Anyone with information regarding Coffey or who has seen anything suspicious in Thermal in late January 1991 has been urged by the Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team to contact the team by calling (951) 955-2777.

Horace Van Vaultz Jr. was linked to the two killings through a genealogy match in 2019, a first for the L.A. County district attorney’s office.


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