Using DNA genealogy techniques to track down killers, authorities identified the human remains of a transient woman who was killed and found 14 years ago in southern Sacramento County.
The identity of Shannon Vielguth, who was born in 1969, was confirmed with the DNA of a close family member, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday in a news release.
The investigation into her death began on March 29, 2008, when sheriff’s officials received a call regarding the discovery of possible human remains in the area of Tyler Island and the Georgiana Slough in the Delta.
Over the following three days, homicide Investigators, criminalists from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office Laboratory of Forensic Services and the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office worked at the scene and exhumed the human remains.
Sheriff’s officials said the Coroner’s Office classified the death as a homicide and determined the victim was most likely killed in fall 2004. The investigation to identify the human remains continued for another 13 years.
Sheriff’s officials said investigators reviewed hundreds of missing person reports, publicly released photographs of clothing and jewelry found with the human remains, along with a composite drawing of what the victim may have looked like. A facial reconstruction, using the victim’s skull, was also released to news media, but the victim remained unidentified.
Authorities launched a genetic genealogy investigation into her death last year. In these investigations, authorities load a DNA profile onto open-source genealogy websites to find people who might be related to the subject of the investigation and narrow their search until investigators can confirm a match.
The same DNA genealogy techniques have been used to identify and capture the Golden State Killer and the NorCal Rapist. Most recently, DNA genealogy was used to identify the man who brutally stabbed to death Nancy Marie Bennallack, the oldest cold case solved in Sacramento County history.
Sheriff’s officials said investigators have learned that Vielguth was living as a transient woman in the six months before her murder. She lived in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, Nevada and California. She used other last names, including Judkins, Hutchings and Joyce.
Law enforcement records show Vielguth was most likely in Reno and Sacramento in October 2004, which coincides with the time she was most likely killed, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators asked anyone with information regarding Vielguth’s murder or her whereabouts in the months leading to her death to call the Sheriff’s Office Homicide Bureau at 916-874-5057 or Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at 916-443-4357. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling 916-874-8477 or by filling out the Sheriff’s Office online tip form.