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Green River murder victim remains Identified

Detectives said they have positively identified the bones as those of 20-year-old Sandra Denise Major. - Courtesy photo/King County Sheriff
Detectives said they have positively identified the bones as those of 20-year-old Sandra Denise Major.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/King County Sheriff's Office

For 27 years the remains, the 16th set tied to Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, were known to the King County Sheriff's Office as "Bones 16."

But on Monday King County Sheriff's Cold Case Detectives announced they had positively identified the bones as those of 20-year-old Sandra Denise Major.

The remains were found near Mountainview Cemetery in Auburn on Dec. 30, 1985 near those of murder victim Kimi Pitsor and another still unidentified Green River victim.

DNA samples obtained from family members led to the identification.

The Major family thanked authorities for their work in a statement: "We would like to thank the detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office who diligently worked this case. We are grateful to finally know what happened to Sandra after all these years."

A friend had reported Major missing after seeing her get into a truck with a man near North 90th Street and Aurora Avenue North on Dec. 24, 1982. Detectives said that not enough was known about Major to positively identify her when her remains were found in 1985.

In late April 2012 the victim's cousin, who lives in Rochester, N.Y., contacted the Sheriff's Office after watching a made-for-television movie about the Green River murders. Family members suspected that a missing family member may have been one of Ridgway's victims.

The Rochester Police Missing Persons Unit helped by obtaining DNA samples from family members, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) helped by asking that the processing of samples be expedited.

The University of North Texas, Center for Human Identification agreed to speed up work on the family reference samples and provided scientific evidence that resulted in the King County Medical Examiner's Office positive identification.

Bode Technology performed DNA work on the remains in 2011 and 2012 and obtained the DNA profiles of the unidentified remains that allowed the identification.

Detectives said that family members' willingness to come forward and advances in technology were key to the identification.

Ridgway admitted to killing Major and the other two women found at the cemetery. He pleaded guilty to murder in 2003 and is serving a life sentence without parole in Walla Walla.

The Green River case still has three sets of unidentified remains and the Sheriff's Office welcomes tips.

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Full statement from the family of Sandra Major:

"We would like to thank the detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office who diligently worked this case. We are grateful to finally know what happened to Sandra after all these years.

We were aware of the lifestyle Sandra lived but she was still a part of our family.  We last saw Sandra here in New York in 1982. We received a letter from her in 1982 with a Seattle postmark but no return address. We never heard from her again and did not know what happened to her.

Recently one of Sandra’s cousins saw a television show about the Green River Killer. We learned that the remains of some of the victims that had not been identified. Since the last contact with Sandra had been the letter from Seattle, we decided to make contact with investigators to see if Sandra was one of the unidentified victims.

We want to thank the detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office, the University of North Texas, Bode Technology and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for working together to bring closure to our family.

We respectfully ask that the media allow us privacy."

 

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