The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has used DNA technology to identify the remains of “Fly Creek Jane Doe,” a body discovered near Amboy in 1980, as a girl who went missing from the Portland-Vancouver area years earlier.
Now, deputies are asking for the public’s help on the unsolved case. They’re trying to track down friends, acquaintances, neighbors, coworkers and others who knew the family of Sandra Renee “Sandy” Morden.
Morden’s skeletal remains were discovered Feb. 24, 1980, along Fly Creek near Amboy, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. “The victim, believed to be female and in her mid to late teens, was the victim of a homicide.”
Three facial reconstructions and multiple media releases over the years were unsuccessful in identifying the remains. However, as a result of DNA and genealogy investigations, detectives determined the remains belonged to Sandy Morden.
Sandy Morden was born 1962, the daughter of Andrew Bain “Andy” Morden and Kathryn Irene Morden. Sandy attended schools in Portland and Vancouver in the mid-1970s, but her whereabouts between May 1977 and February 1980 haven’t been pinned down, deputies said.
This year, Clark County cold case detectives sought the help of Parabon NanoLabs, a Reston, Va.-based company that conducts DNA testing for law enforcement, to identify Fly Creek Jane Doe. The company used phenotyping — predicting a person’s physical appearance and ancestry from DNA evidence — to create a virtual snapshot of the murder victim. It included eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling and face shape to depict as accurately as possible what the girl likely looked like at the time of her death.
Genetic genealogy techniques were then used to generate leads about the victim’s identity and family history. Deputies searched online genealogy databases, newspaper archives, public family trees, obituaries and other public records to create a family tree for Jane Doe.
Then, detectives used the family tree to contact potential family members of the victim, according to the sheriff’s office.
“One family member advised detectives that Sandra had been missing since the 1970s and provided a name, family history, photographs and a (DNA) sample, which confirmed the relationship between the Fly Creek Jane Doe and the Morden family,” the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies have turned their efforts toward interviewing people who interacted with the Morden family after 1970.
Detectives say the Mordens moved to Portland from the San Francisco Bay Area. Andy Morden was a Korean War-era Marine Corps veteran, worked in the maritime trades on tugboats providing service to pulp, paper and logging interests on the Willamette and Columbia rivers.
The couple divorced in the early 1970s, with Andy Morden assuming custody of Sandy Morden. Following the divorce, Irene Morden lived separately at various locations in Portland and in the Bay Area. Andy and Sandy lived in Portland and Vancouver, according to the sheriff’s office.
Sandy Morden attended Binnesmead Middle School (now Harrison Park Middle School) on Southeast 87th Avenue in Portland in 1974 and 1975. She attended Gaiser Middle School on Northeast 99th Street in Vancouver in 1975 and 1976. She attended Wilson High School on Southwest Vermont Street in Portland in 1976 and 1977.
Anyone with any information should contact Detective Lindsay Schultz at Lindsay.Schultz@clark.wa.gov or 360-397-2036.