A woman whose remains were found 31 years ago in Thermal has been identified thanks to the use of forensic genealogy, the Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team announced on Monday.
On Tuesday, the Cold Case Homicide Team announced the remains were those of Kathryn Coffey of Baldwin Park.
Coffey's remains were found in a wash area at the base of a hill in the area west of Avenue 62 and Madison Street in Thermal on January 22, 1991. Authorities said only bones were found and it appeared her remains had been in the desert for a lengthy amount of time.
The subsequent investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department produced no leads and the case, believed to be a suspicious death, went cold.
That started to change earlier this year when a forensic genetic genealogy investigation started.
In June 2022, Cold Case Homicide Team investigators met with Kathryn’s sister and obtained DNA for further analysis. On Aug. 8, 2022, the California Department of Justice lab confirmed the remains were Coffeys, and her family was notified of the positive identification.
According to her family, Coffey was last known to be in the Indio area around 1989-1990. They also told investigators that she graduated in the mid-1970s Phi Beta Kappa from Scripps College with a degree in English literature.
The Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team is asking that anyone who may have any information about the victim or who may have seen anything suspicious in that area of Thermal in late January 1991 contact the team at (951) 955-2777.
The Regional Cold Case Homicide Team is comprised of members of the DA’s Office Bureau of Investigation, the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner Department, the FBI, and the Riverside Police Department. The team is available to assist in the investigation of cold case homicides for all Riverside County law enforcement agencies.
News Channel 3's I-Team investigator Karen Devine took an inside look at the process of how advances in forensic science are helping investigators solve cold cases.