Surveyor found remains near California canyon in 2000, officials say. Now they’re ID’d

More than two decades ago, a surveyor trekking a California canyon stumbled upon human remains.

Now, thanks to forensic genetic genealogy, the remains have been identified as a 52-year-old woman, officials say.

The partially buried remains were found “about 50 feet below Grimes Canyon Road between Fillmore and Moorpark,” authorities said, the Los Angeles Times reported in January 2000.

Investigators also found several pieces of clothing and a backpack, Othram Inc., a forensic genetic genealogy company that helped identify the remains, said in a Feb. 15 news release.

Investigators determined the remains belonged to a middle-aged woman, the company said.

Though a sample of the woman’s DNA was entered into the Combined DNA Index System, no match was found, according to Othram.

Investigators also entered the woman’s case into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, the company said.

Even still, “the woman’s identity remained a mystery,” Othram said.

Then, in June 2023, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office-Cold Case Unit and Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office turned their efforts to forensic genetic genealogy, according to the company.

Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing coupled with “traditional genealogical methods” to create “family history profiles,” according to the Library of Congress. With genealogical DNA testing, researchers can determine if and how people are biologically related.

Skeletal remains were sent to an Othram lab, where the company said its scientists developed a “comprehensive DNA profile.”

This profile was used to create investigative leads that were given to investigators, Othram said. This follow-up led investigators to the woman’s potential family members.

The remains were identified as Linda Orndorff, a Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office spokesperson confirmed in a Feb. 29 email to McClatchy News.

Orndorff, who would have been 52 at the time of her death, last lived in Long Beach, according to the company

Her cause and manner of death have not been determined, according to the spokesperson.

Ventura County is about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

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