Remains found on Lake Michigan shoreline in 1997 identified as woman missing in Wisconsin

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 12:20 PM EST
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MANISTEE COUNTY, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan State Police used genetic genealogy and worked with several out-of-state departments and a lab in Utah to identify Dorothy Lynn (Thyng) Ricker, a then-26-year-old from Chicago who was last seen on Oct. 2, 1997. Ricker’s body was found along the Lake Michigan shoreline in 1997 has been identified 25 years later.

The identified woman was last seen at a Wisconsin beach along Lake Michigan by two officers from the St. Francis Police Department. Ricker was sitting on a Lake Michigan beach park bench when she told the officers she was from Chicago and was “enjoying the lakefront and the sun.”

The next day an abandoned vehicle was found nearby, and the registration plate came back to a “missing/endangered person” entered by the Chicago Police Department.

MSP Troopers from the Manistee Post eventually found her body in the 4000 block of Fox Farm Road on Oct. 27, 1997. However, she was unable to be identified and with no credible leads.

An autopsy determined cause of death to be Asphyxia due to drowning and the manner of death an accident.

In September 2020, detectives with the MSP Cadillac Post and the MSP Missing Persons Coordination Unit exhumed the individual for advanced DNA testing. Once exhumed, ‘fresh’ bone samples were sent to Astrea Forensics under the DNA Doe Project for Forensic Genetic Genealogy.

A possible familial match was located via FGG in July 2021. This match connected the unidentified human remains to the Thyng family in Acton, Maine. With the assistance of the York County Sheriff’s Office in Maine, familial DNA reference samples from a possible brother were obtained.

DNA was also obtained from a possible daughter in Chicago. Investigators also located 1997 news articles from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel detailing the unidentified woman’s contacts just prior to her going missing.

Bone samples were subsequently shipped to Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, Utah for positive identification. Her identity was confirmed in December 2022.

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

Funding for the process was provided by the MSP Seventh District and the MSP Intelligence Operations Division.

More information about the DNA Doe project can be found by visiting

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