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DNA researchers ID woman's remains in 46-year-old Twin Cities cold case

Roberta Seyfert's remains were found in the Mississippi River in June 1976.
Roberta Seyfert.

Roberta Seyfert.

The remains of a 22-year-old woman found floating in the Mississippi River in 1976 have finally been identified thanks to DNA technology.

The remains belonged to Roberta Seyfert, according to a news release on Friday from the nonprofit DNA Doe Project. Her remains was found floating in the river near Lilydale on June 11, 1976. 

The identity of "Lilydale Jane Doe" was confirmed 46 years later thanks to investigative genetic genealogy. The DNA Doe Project says the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office contacted the nonprofit in March 2021 as it worked to identify the woman. 

Investigators used a DNA sample previously taken from the remains, which was then processed to create a DNA profile that was uploaded to GEDmatch, a public database. And genealogists with the nonprofit in June 2021 began analyzing genetic matches to the sample. 

The nonprofit found distant cousins who were the closest DNA matches, which investigators used to trace Lilydale Jane Doe's paternal line back to early 18th century Luxembourg, finding a common ancestor who had immigrated to the United States in the mid-1840s. 

The DNA Doe Project in July 2021 came up with a potential ID for Lilydale Jane Doe and notified the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office. 

“Even though the highest match was in the distant cousin range, our team of investigative genetic genealogists were able to quickly follow the DNA connections which led to giving Roberta her name back. We are honored to have had the opportunity to work on this case and to have played a part in bringing her home to her family," Rebecca Somerhalder of the DNA Doe Project said in a statement. 

Seyfert was born in 1954 in Tucson, Arizona. Investigators were not sure how long her body had been in the Mississippi River prior to its discovery, but they estimate she died weeks prior, according to the DNA Doe Project. 

When her remains were discovered, she was wearing blue shorts, socks, and shoes. Authorities estimated she was between 25 and 30 years old but forensic anthropologists could not determine her race or ethnicity, the nonprofit says.

A cause and manner of death for Seyfert is still undetermined, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner told Bring Me The News.

DNA Doe Project is working on three other cases in Minnesota:

  • Ramsey County Jane Doe, whose remains were recovered from the Mississippi River in St. Paul in 1977
  • Rock County John Doe, whose skeletal remains were found in a culvert in 1981
  • Freeborn County John Doe, whose remains were found off Interstate 90 in 2015

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