Michigan authorities positively identify cold case murder victim found in 1994

michigan cold case
Source: Ottawa County Sheriff's Office; Unsplash

Jan. 22 2022, Published 4:50 p.m. ET

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Investigators in Michigan have identified the victim in a cold case homicide as a woman who went missing almost three decades ago.

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According to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, in November 1994, hunters stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a female. A forensic autopsy determined she had been murdered, but nvestigators were unable to figure out the women’s identity at the time.

In February 2021, over 26 years after the grisly discovery of the body, the Ottawa County Cold Case Team worked with multiple partners, including the DNA Doe Project, to utilize a DNA profile obtained in 2007 of the woman they called “Matilda." Genetic genealogy helped narrow down the victim's possible relatives, WXMI reported.

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Late last year, Sheriff’s Detectives Sara Fillman and Allison Anderson went to Minnesota and obtained DNA samples from whom they believed were the woman's family members, according to WHTC.


On Jan. 18, the detectives received confirmation DNA from the samples matched the victim’s DNA, and they were able to positively identify “Matilda” as Shelly Rae Kephart, also known as Shelly Rae Christian, a 29-year-old woman who went missing from Minnesota in 1993.

The investigation into Kephart’s murder remains open.

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Anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office at 616-355-1100 during normal business hours, or the county’s non-emergency line during off hours at (800) 249-0911.

Tips can also be shared anonymously with the Ottawa County’s Silent Observer at (877) 88-SILENT or online at

michigan cold case
Source: Ottawa County Sheriff's Office; Unsplash

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