Leg bone unconnected to cold case

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — An adult leg bone found in the sediment of newly drained Lake Aldwell on May 15 does not belong to a 41-year-old woman who was reported missing in the vicinity of a nearby resort almost 22 years ago, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office said.

Suspecting that the bone might be a clue in the case of missing person Karen C. Tucker, officials matched a DNA profile of the tibia against a DNA database of missing persons that included Tucker without successfully identifying the bone as belonging to her or any other missing person, Detective Sgt. Lyman Moores said.

Tucker was reported missing Jan. 5, 1991.

“We did not get a match,” he said of the cold case.

The DNA profile of the bone sample, believed to be up to 50 years old, will remain in two statewide and national databases of missing persons.

“This will be placed in the unidentified human-remains section,” Moores said Thursday.

An anthropological exam will be conducted on the bone at the University of Texas to determine the person’s gender, race and approximate age, he said.

‘Develop a profile’

“They’ll develop a profile of the bone, give it a number, and it will remain in CODIS [the Combined DNA Index System] under unidentified human remains,” Moores said.

“Hopefully in the next month or two, they can get into that.”

Lake Aldwell behind Elwha Dam was drained earlier this year as part of the $325 million Elwha River Restoration Project that began in September 2011.

A couple walking their dog noticed the tibia sticking out of the top layer of reservoir silt about a half-mile north of the Elwha River Bridge on U.S. Highway 101, Moores said.

They turned the bone over to the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, which contacted Olympic National Park.

It was determined that the bone was of human origin but was not ancient Native American remains.

A search of the area found no more bones.

The circumstances surrounding Tucker’s disappearance had to be reconstructed in a 2006 investigative report “due to the fact that the original case file had been lost,” the report said.

‘Whirlwind of emotions’

Tucker’s daughter, Sophie Hill, 43, of Eugene, Ore., who learned of the results of the bone examination Tuesday morning, was experiencing “a whirlwind of emotions” late Tuesday afternoon.

“Of course I’m disappointed, but I’m still glad there’s someone out there who thinks this is important because I was pretty wounded by the fact that they lost all my mom’s case files and paperwork,” said Hill, a caregiver.

“The fact that there is someone on the job now, and new technology and databases and interconnections, that gives me more hope,” she said.

“I’m not totally hopeless,” Hill added.

“There’s only the million possibilities until the one reality of when she’s found, so that’s what I’m left with.”

The last time Hill saw her mother, Hill was waving goodbye and leaving for Thanksgiving vacation, Hill said.

The reconstructed report on Tucker’s disappearance included a synopsis that said Tucker had been suicidal in the past.

In an earlier interview, Hill said her mother had agoraphobia, was unemployed and was living on supplemental Social Security income when she went missing.

Hill said she believed that a combination of drinking and medication may have disoriented Tucker and caused a fatal accident.

Living in cabin

At the time, Tucker was living with her boyfriend in a cabin at the Elwha Resort near the Elwha River dam.

The resort — and the dam — have both been torn down.

The resort and its cabins were located in a remote area 10 miles west of Port Angeles.

Tucker was last seen New Year’s Day in 1991, Moores said.

Her disappearance was reported by her boyfriend, who has been interviewed about Tucker’s disappearance, Moores said.

“I’m not going to rule out anybody as a suspect,” he said.

“At this point, we’ve pretty much exhausted all leads on this case,” Moores added.

“Unless something else develops, there’s nothing we can do at this point.

“But this case will always remain an open case until we find her remains, until we find an explanation as to why she died and how she died.”


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 04. 2012 5:47PM
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