DNA helps ID body found in 2020 east of Sweet Home

The remains of a woman found 13 miles east of Sweet Home nearly three years ago have been positively identified, Oregon State Police announced in a news release posted Tuesday, March 7, to Facebook.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from Parabon NanoLabs and the Oregon Medical Examiner’s Office, identified the woman as Grace Lorna Narvaez-Weaver, who had last been seen at a downtown Olympia, Washington, post office in July 2019, according to a March 2021 tweet from the Olympia Police Department.

The Linn County Sheriffs Office used DNA technology to identify the remains of a woman found in 2020 east of Sweet Home.

Her “partially skeletonized” remains were discovered Friday, April 3, 2020, in a remote, wooded area near Gordon Road. Responding law-enforcement officials, which included the LCSO, recovered the body, plus several distinct articles of clothing, but found no identification. Police said that an examination determined that she was likely between 30 and 50 years old.

The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office uploaded the case into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and submitted a bone sample to Bode Technology. However, when the resulting profile was uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System database, no matches were found.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office created a forensic illustration of the body’s physical characteristics for use in press releases and as the main NamUs profile picture.

Despite the Linn County Sheriff’s Office’s efforts, police said, no leads produced results. In response, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office used grant funding from the National Institute of Justice/Bureau of Justice Assistance to perform DNA techniques, sending a tooth sample to DNA Labs International while a different type of DNA profile was produced for Parabon NanoLabs.

Parabon released a report containing additional physical features, predicting that the woman was of both Northern European and African descent, with fair skin, green or hazel eyes, light brown hair and likely “some” freckling. This information, along with the image that accompanied the report, was uploaded to the NamUs website.

In August 2022, Parabon authored an investigative genetic genealogy report with what the OSP called “the strongest investigative lead yet.” It suggested that the woman was Grace Lorna Narvaez-Weaver, who went missing in Washington state in 2019. A 2008 photo was included, which the OSP in its 2023 news release described as “striking” in its resemblance.

The following month, police said, Linn County Sheriff’s Office detectives contacted Narvaez-Weaver’s family. A family member provided a DNA sample, which was then compared to the unknown woman’s. According to the OSP, they shared a significant amount of DNA consistent with a parent/child relationship.

“Grace’s case is an excellent example of how advanced technologies like investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) and phenotyping can be used to help resolve a case before it goes cold,” CeCe Moore, Parabon’s chief genetic genealogist, said in the release.

“Collaboration and dedication were key to finding a resolution,” Oregon State Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Nici Vance said. “We hope that the return of Grace to her family provides a level of peace now that her whereabouts are no longer a mystery.”

Police said that the investigation into Narvaez-Weaver’s death is ongoing.