(KTXL) — The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said a woman who was killed 25 years ago was finally identified with the help of a forensic genealogy lab.
She was identified as Kerry Ann Cummings, born in 1972.
According to the sheriff’s office, in October of 1997, a duck hunter found a dismembered torso in the Ryan Slough, north of Eureka. More remains were found the following January on Clam Beach.
Toward the end of 1998, on Nov. 3, a man walked into the sheriff’s main station carrying a human body part. The sheriff’s office identified him as Wayne Adam Ford, and he told deputies that he had killed several women — He was sentenced to death in 2006 for four counts of first-degree murder.
He also admitted to killing the woman whose remains were found, and more of her remains were found during a search of his encampment. Despite the recovery and descriptive details of the woman, investigators were unable to confirm her identity.
A cold case unit created in 2021 began a renewed effort to identify the woman. They later received help from a forensic genealogy lab, Othram, Inc., and the California Department of Justice and were able to track down a relative.
“The relative stated that their family member, Kerry, had been missing since the mid-1990s,” the sheriff’s office said.
Investigators contacted Kerry Cumming’s sister, Kathie, and learned her family last had contact with Kerry in 1997. Her sister provided investigators with a DNA sample, which was then confirmed as a genealogical match.
“During her last contact with family in 1997, Kerry was suffering from untreated mental illness and told family that she was couch-surfing in the Eugene, Oregon area,” the sheriff’s office said. “Despite multiple offers from her family, she refused to come home.”
Kerry Cumming’s sister told investigators she never made it onto the missing persons’ database because of “laws surrounding the report of missing persons at that time.”
“Unfortunately, back then they were told that Kerry was an adult, that she had chosen the lifestyle, and that if she wasn’t a threat to herself or others, there was nothing that [law enforcement] could do,” Kathie said. “As the internet expanded, I took to searching the NamUs website when I was missing her, scanning for mention of her tattoo and searching through the pictures of the Jane Does. She was dearly loved.”