Portage woman's remains identified 30 years after disappearance

2012-07-20T11:00:00Z 2012-07-21T14:24:04Z Portage woman's remains identified 30 years after disappearanceBy Jeff Burton jeff.burton@nwi.com, (219) 548-4354 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Thirty years after she went missing, police know where Kimberly Wuerthele died.

Their next task is finding out how she got there.

The 21-year-old Portage resident went missing Feb. 26, 1982, when Portage police said she jumped from the family car while en route to Chicago for addiction treatment.

Her remains were identified earlier this month, using DNA collected from a body found along the Lake Erie shoreline in Monroe, Mich., just months after her disappearance.

Portage Detective Cpl. Janis Regnier began looking into the case in 2008 and submitted Wuerthele's dental records to a forensic odentologist in Indianapolis. She then tried tracking the woman's whereabouts through driver's license databases, but found no success.

In late 2010, Regnier learned about a relatively new DNA database at the University of North Texas Health Science Center where law enforcement officers, coroners and medical examiners were uploading information on missing people and unidentified remains.

She tracked down one of Wuerthele's brothers, and in February, entered his DNA sample into the database, hoping to find a match.

On July 2, Regnier received word the body of a woman who washed ashore 30 years earlier at a Lake Erie power plant was Wuerthele.

Police in Monroe County, Mich., said going back in their files, they believe the woman's body had been in the water at least two weeks before it was found and they believe her death is a homicide.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Detective Jeff Pauli at (734) 240-7745.

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