DNA used to identify woman who washed up on Lake Michigan shoreline 25 years ago

DNA taken from woman’s brother, daughter


MANISTEE, Mich. – A woman found dead along the shoreline of Lake Michigan 25 years ago has been identified.

Dorothy Lynn (Thyng) Ricker, 26, of Chicago, Illinois, had been missing for 25 days before her body washed up in Michigan.

Ricker was last seen in Wisconsin at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 2, 1997, by St. Francis police officers. At the time, she was sitting on a park bench along the Lake Michigan beach. Police said she mentioned she was from Chicago and was “enjoying the lakefront and the sun.” At that time, she had not been reported missing.

An abandoned vehicle was found the next day nearby where police saw her and when officers ran the registration it came back to a “missing/endangered person” entered by police in Chicago.

Her body was found on Oct. 27, 1997 in the 4000 block of Fox Farm Road in Manistee County. She was completely nude and had washed up on shore.

Police did not have anything to identify her other than a single earring. They sent several messages to surrounding states when she was found, but were never able to identify her. An autopsy determined she died by asphyxia due to drowning and the manner of death was ruled accidental.

In September 2020, Michigan State Police exhumed her remains for advanced DNA testing. Bone samples were sent to Astrea Forensics under the DNA Doe Project for Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG).

Due to the state of the bone samples, they were not suitable for traditional testing. They were sent to Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, Utah for positive identification through advanced Next Generation Sequencing (NGS).

In July 2021, a possible familial match was located with the Thyng family in Acton, Maine. The DNA Doe Project investigated the possible link with help from police in the area. DNA samples were taken from her brother in Maine and her daughter, who was living in Chicago, Illinois.

In December 2022, the DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) and Intermountain Forensics confirmed her identity.

“Forensic Genetic Genealogy continues to unlock mysteries and provide families with answers about their loved ones. Although DNA testing wasn’t possible when Dorothy Ricker died, investigators are grateful that it brings her family some resolution today,” Michigan State Police said.

The operation was funded by the MSP Seventh District and the MSP Intelligence Operations Division.

Read: Michigan cold case coverage

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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.