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Spokane police identify body found nearly 40 years ago with help from genetic genealogy

SPD identified the body as Ruth Belle Waymire, who was originally found in the Spokane River on June 20, 1984.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Police Department (SPD) has identified the body of a woman in a nearly 40-year-old cold case dating back to 1984.

With help from genetic genealogy and the Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office, SPD identified the body as Ruth Belle Waymire, who was originally found on June 20, 1984.

According to SPD, two fishermen discovered Waymire's dismembered body along the south shore of the Spokane River. At the time, the body was never identified and no other women matching the medical examiner's description were reported missing.

A major development occurred in the case over a decade later in April 1998 when a human skull was found in a vacant lot at 7th Ave. and Sherman by a woman walking her dog. Investigators considered that the skull may have belonged to Waymire's body, but nothing ever led to a concrete identification. 

The case went cold again for three years before advanced DNA technology was able to determine that the skull did in fact match the body's torso. The DNA was uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), but no samples from any offenders, crime scenes or missing people were found.

The investigation continued well into the 2000s and 2010s. Police say before Waymire was identified, investigators dubbed her "Millie" after SPD Detective Don Giese's daughter said, "no one deserves to not have a name."

A break in the case developed in 2021 when SPD officers submitted DNA samples from Waymire's remains to Othram, a company that specializes in working with degraded samples. It was the same company investigators used to solve the Candy Rogers Cold Case that plagued Spokane for 63 years.

The samples were reportedly retrieved from Waymire's torso, which at the time had been buried in a local cemetery before being exhumed in 2001. After retrieving DNA from a family member, Othram was able to narrow their search to a public record of two sisters, which determined Waymire to be one of them. Investigators were able to locate one of the sisters in the Midwest, who provided her DNA to help in the case.

Finally, in February 2023, investigators were able to identify Waymire as the woman found in the Spokane River. Police say her second husband, Trampas D.L. Vaughn, served time in prison before marrying Waymire in Wenatchee. No record of divorce was found between them, and Waymire's children remain unknown at this time.

Trampas D.L. Vaughn

Vaughn died in Sutter County, California in 2017, but police have not ruled him out as a suspect.  No other suspects have been identified and Waymire's first husband, who lives in Spokane, is assisting in the investigation.

SPD and investigators with the medical examiner's office are encouraging those who knew Ruth, or perhaps her unknown children, to contact police through Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

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