Since 2009, she’s been Unidentified Person #5319

The woman was found in the Willamette River near Swan Island on May 31, 2009

One of the distinctive pieces of jewelry found on a woman found in the Willamette River near Swan Island on May 31, 2009. She has never been identified (Courtesy: OSP Medical Examiner Division)
One of the distinctive pieces of jewelry found on a woman found in the Willamette River near Swan Island on May 31, 2009. She has never been identified (Courtesy: OSP Medical Examiner Division)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More than 8 years ago, the body of a badly decomposed white woman was found by boaters in the Willamette River near Swan Island. Despite some very unique clothing, jewelry and other characteristics, she’s never been identified.

Now the Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office want your help to identify this woman. No foul play is suspected, but her family may need closure, officials said.

For more information on Unidentified Person #5319:
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System

She was between 50 and 60 years old when she was found May 31, 2009. She had her long, curly graying-brown hair wrapped in 12-inch braid secured with a turquoise-colored elastic band. She was 5-foot-3 and about 160 pounds.

Dr. Nici Vance, a forensic anthropologist with the Oregon State Police Medical Examiner Division, described the woman as full-figured, with a lace-top size 46DD bra. She had a baby blue hooded sweatshirt with white trim and a kangaroo pocket.

“She had been in the water for a while, I would say probably a few weeks, so the thought is that she probably had drowned and that she just hadn’t been discovered for a few weeks,” Vance told KOIN 6 News.

“But there’s no trauma that would indicate a homicide. There’s nothing to indicate anything, even an accident or natural, so we don’t have anything really to go on as far as the cause.”

Vance said not being able to identify the woman is frustrating.

“I do this job so I can connect people to their loved ones and you might think the medical examiner’s office is kind of a hard place to work,” she said. “But we do bring closure to families and that’s my purpose here.”

Dr. Nici Vance, an Oregon State Police forensic anthropologist, September 28, 2017 (KOIN)
Dr. Nici Vance, an Oregon State Police forensic anthropologist, September 28, 2017 (KOIN)

She said she tries to find different ways to expose these cases to the press and the world, which is one reason she posted a video on the OSP Facebook page.

“We really want Oregonians to realize fellow Oregonians are here and they’re waiting and they might just need their loved ones to check in with law enforcement and say we have this person that is missing from our family.”

Unidentified Person #5319 is “an interesting lady, just based on the things we discovered with her,” Vance said.

Distinctive features and jewelry

The woman had extensive, “very distinctive” dental work, including upper and lower removable partial dentures. She had several filling on her natural teeth.

Perhaps the most distinctive thing about this woman was the jewelry she wore, mostly on her hands and wrists:

• On her right ring finger was a gold ring with a red middle stone, either Marquise-cut or pear-cut
• On her right wrist was a green cord bracelet with yellow daisy beaded flowers with red centers, looped twice
• Also on her right wrist was a green and red cloth woven bracelet plus 2 black elastic hair bands.
• On her left wrist was a yellow rubber stretch bracelet with the etched words, “LIVESTRONG”
• Also on her left wrist was a rainbow-colored rubber stretch bracelet with the etched words, “EMBRACE DIVERSITY”
• Around her neck was one gold chain with a small heart-shaped red stone and one gold chain with an open gold filigree heart pendant with clear stones encircling the heart
• In her left earlobe: one beaded metal earring with dangling turquoise stones in the shape of a stick figure

Despite her DNA and dental profiles being filed with the national databases, no positive ID has ever been made.

Oregon has more than 160 unidentified deceased people in the database. Investigators said cases like this one need and deserve the public’s help. “We input all of our unidentified remains into that system so Oregonians can go there.” — Dr. Nici Vance

“She’s someone’s sister or aunt or mother. Who knows who she is? I don’t know, but I want Oregonians to know about her. She’s someone’s loved one and I want to find out who that is.”

Vance has a thought about how someone seemingly so identifiable can remain unidentified for so long.

“I think people become isolated sometimes. They become marginalized from society sometimes,” she told KOIN 6 News. “To think that no ne is looking for them is a hard thing to think about. … It’s hard for me to believe no one is looking for these people.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Offic at 503.988.0560, or Sgt. Lee Gosson by email: Lee.Gosson@mcso.us