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'What Does It Mean?' Remains Identified After 4 Decades, but Mystery Lingers

DNA sample leads to a relative of missing teen Sandy Morden
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2019 2:27 PM CDT
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Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Animaflora)

(Newser) – For almost 40 years, the body discovered at Fly Creek near Amboy, Washington, in 1980 was known simply as "Fly Creek Jane Doe." But then investigators uploaded DNA from the skeletal remains to a public genetic genealogy database. The move ultimately led them to a cousin of Sandra Renee Morden, who disappeared at age 15 in 1977. Investigators now know the remains are Sandy's—but they know little else. The high schooler was an only child and was largely left "unsupervised," "a latchkey kid," Det. Lindsay Schultz tells the Oregonian. She had no known problems, including with the law. Her parents had divorced in the early 1970s and her mother initially had custody of the girl, but KATU reports she was living with her father in Portland and Vancouver when she went missing.

He was often away working on tugboats for long periods of time, and the family believes he thought Sandy was with her mother when he returned home after one of these stretches to find her gone. Schultz says he may have "had suspicions that she may have run off with Mom." Right around the time Sandy disappeared, her mother published a classified ad in the Oregonian reading, "Sandra Renee Morden, Happy 15th Birthday. Love Always - Mom." Though neither parent is officially considered a suspect at this point, Schultz says of the ad, "Was it just a mom who loved her daughter—or did her mom know something and put it out there for that reason? It’s one of those two, right? You ponder it. You look at it and you think, What does it mean?" Sandy's father died in 1999, 11 years after her mother's death. Investigators are asking anyone who knew Sandy or her family to get in touch. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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