A Washington sheriff’s office on the Olympic Peninsula recently turned to crowdfunding to pay for DNA testing and genetic genealogy research in order to identify the remains of a woman missing for five years.
According to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, deputies recovered a severed foot inside a woman’s size 8 New Balance sneaker on a beach at the mouth of the Elwha River in Port Angeles on December 2021.
At the time, investigators were unable to generate successful leads due to the limited amount of remains recovered. Additionally, Clallam County Sergeant Brian Knutson said the evidence did not meet the criteria for testing from the Washington State Patrol or the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System for forensic analysis.
Two years later, the sheriff’s office turned to DNASolves.com, a crowdfunding site that helps law enforcement agencies pay for DNA testing to solve violent crimes such as homicides and sexual assaults. Thanks to donations from the public, the sheriff’s office was able to raise $7,500.
The sheriff’s office partnered with Othram Labs, based in The Woodlands, Texas, which compiled a list of relatives who shared similar DNA with the missing woman.
Detectives later contacted a family member who provided their own DNA, which confirmed that the remains belonged to 68-year-old Jerilyn L. Smith of Sequim, who disappeared in January 2018.
According to Smith’s husband, he had found her car parked near the Elwha River Bridge near Port Angeles shorty after her disappearance.
Search-and-rescue dogs were able to track Smith’s scent to the middle of the bridge, leading authorities to believe she died by jumping into the river.
Divers searched the water and river banks, as well as the beaches of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but didn’t locate her.