Washington cold case victim identified decades after fishermen found naked, dismembered body floating in river
A woman who was found dismembered in Eastern Washington 39 years ago has been identified through DNA and genetic genealogy, police said of the cold case this week.
The 24-year-old victim, who became known as "Millie" over the years, was identified as Ruth Belle Waymire in February, the Spokane Police Department said in a release on Facebook.
Waymire was found by two fishermen floating naked in the Spokane River, near the border with Idaho, with her head, feet and hands cut off on June 20, 1984.
Fourteen years later in 1998, a skull was found in a vacant lot in Spokane, Washington, and three years after that, detectives were able to match it to Waymire’s remains, but she had yet to be identified.
In 2002, forensic drawings and a facial reconstruction were done on Waymire’s skull and in 2007, her information was uploaded to NamUs, a national missing and identified persons system.
In 2021, DNA taken from when her body was exhumed in 2001 were sent to Othram, a company that works with degraded samples who also helped Spokane police identify 9-year-old Candy Rogers’ 1959 killer two years ago.
The company created a DNA profile of Waymire that listed potential family members, and after a relative in Spokane provided a DNA sample, her identity was narrowed down to two sisters using genetic genealogy.
Although both sisters were initially believed dead, Waymire’s younger sister was eventually found living in Oklahoma and provided DNA to investigators.
The two were confirmed to be sisters on February 17th, 2023, and Waymire, who had never been reported missing and who had been living a "vagabond lifestyle" at the time, was finally identified.
Waymire had lived with her mother and sister in Spokane after her parents’ divorced when she was young, but her mother died soon after and the sisters separated and lost touch.
Police said Waymire was married to her second husband at the time of her death and had likely given birth a year or two before she was found. No baby has been found or identified.
Her killer has yet to be identified.
Her husband Trampas D.L. Vaughn, born in 1945, died in 2017. He had served time in prison in Iowa before he moved to Washington and married Waymire.
Vaughn hasn’t been ruled out as a suspect and no other suspects have been identified.
Waymire’s first husband still lives in Spokane and is cooperating with investigators.
"Spokane Police and Investigators with the Medical Examiner’s Office are hopeful that those who knew Ruth, her husbands, and/or perhaps a child/children born to Ruth will contact police through Crime Check at 509-456-2233 and help bring closure to the tragic death of a young woman dubbed Millie, until now," the department said. "Ruth Belle would have been 63 next month."