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Bones found in California desert 31 years ago identified as remains of Kathryn Coffey after DNA is obtained from her sister


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Bones found in a Southern California desert more than 31 years ago have been identified as the remains of a Los Angeles County woman.

The Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team used forensic genealogy to identify the bones as those of Kathryn Coffey of Baldwin Park, the district attorney’s office said in a press release.

The bones were discovered in the unincorporated Coachella Valley community of Thermal, southwest of the city of Indio, on Jan. 22, 1991 — two weeks after what would have been Coffey’s 37th birthday.

The remains were located in a wash at the base of a hill and appeared to have been in the desert for a long time.

“The subsequent investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department unfortunately produced no leads and the case, believed to be a suspicious death, went cold,” the office said.

The cold case team began a forensic genealogy investigation this year and obtained DNA from Coffey’s sister. The California Department of Justice laboratory confirmed the identity on August 8 and Coffey’s family was informed of the positive identification.

The family told investigators that Coffey, born in 1954, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Scripps College with a degree in English literature in the mid-1970s and was last known to be in the Indio area around 1989 or 1990.

The Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team is seeking new leads in the case. Anyone who may have any information is asked to call the team at (951) 955-2777.

In June, the same team of cold-case investigators used advances in DNA technology to link a Texas truck driver to the 1993 killing of a woman who was found dead along a freeway onramp in a Southern California desert.

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