Kern Co Jane Doe is an unidentified female of uncertain race who was found on July 14, 1980 in an almond orchard in Kern County between McFarland and Bakersfield, California. Having been sexually assaulted and stabbed, the manner of her death is considered homicide. She had shoulder length brown hair, brown eyes, and was 5′ 4″ tall and weighed 115 lbs. She had tattoos professionally “inked”. She may have been picked up at the now closed bar in Lemoore, CA called Ruby’s, about 75 miles from where she was found.
Date Found July 14, 1980
Estimated Age 25 – 40
Estimated PMI Unspecified
Location McFarland, California
Agency of Jurisdiction
Dawn Ratliff, Coroner
Kern County Sheriff’s Office
Links to More Information
On April 23, 2021 the Kern County Sheriff-Coroner (KCSCO) and the DNA Doe Project (DDP) announced the identification of Kern County Jane Doe 1980 as Shirley Ann Soosay, a member of the Cree Nation. She is one of the first Indigenous Peoples Does to be identified using genetic genealogy.
Ms. Soosay was found in an almond orchard near Bakersfield, California in 1980. She was an unidentified victim of suspected serial killer Wilson Chouest.
In July of 2018, Chief Dawn Ratliff of the Kern County Sheriff-Coroner Division contacted DDP hoping to resolve the woman’s identity using genetic genealogy. Because the DNA was so highly degraded, it took nearly a year to obtain data which could be uploaded to GEDmatch. Genealogical work on the case did not begin until May 2019.
Based on the genealogy research, it was determined that the deceased woman descended from Indigenous First Nations People from Canada, a population which is under-represented in most DNA databases. Team Leader Gina Wrather noted, “This case was particularly challenging because Indigenous family histories are usually relayed orally, so there is little written genealogical documentation available.”
The identity was solved when a close family member recognized an artist’s rendering of Kern County Jane Doe and saw the information about her likely origins, both of which were posted as part of a DDP Facebook outreach campaign. When the relative uploaded their DNA profile to the GEDmatch database the identification was confirmed.
The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of those groups and individuals who helped solve this case: Kern County Sheriff-Coroner Division Chief Dawn Ratliff who brought the case to us; Othram for DNA sequencing; Dr. Gregory Magoon, contracting through Full Genomes Corp., for bioinformatics; Family Tree DNA for upload to their database; GEDmatch/Verogen for use of their tools and database; Carl Koppelman for his artist’s rendition of Jane Doe; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home. We also recognize the assistance of the Métis Family Website Resources & Discussion Group which has supported our research on Cree family trees.
Chief Coroner Ratliff summed up the team’s efforts, “This is not about solving crime although it may be a by-product. This was about finding family who had missed her but did not know where to look.”
For more information on the search for the identity of Kern County Jane Doe:
KGET.com News Article
Image Credit: Carl Koppelman
Links to Kern County Jane Doe Article Links