August 5, 2011

Murder victim found in desert in 1971 identified

Beddie Walraven
Los Angeles Times

San Bernardino County - The remains of a woman who was murdered and dumped in the Mojave Desert in 1946 have been identified through a DNA match, officials said Friday.

The discovery that scattered, unidentified bones found in 1971 are the remains of 25-year-old Beddie Walraven came after years of painstaking work by San Bernardino County coroner investigators and scientists at the state attorney general’s DNA laboratory in Richmond.

“It’s one of the older cases we had that’s been solved with DNA,” said Sandy Fatland, a coroner spokeswoman. “It’s amazing what they can do now … Every day, everything is becoming more refined."

Walraven was reported missing in May 1946. In 1975, a man arrested for an unrelated crime told Santa Ana police he had killed Walraven 29 years before and dumped her body in the Mojave Desert near Baker -– then, as now, a remote expanse that hides secrets well.

It was only recently that authorities had the technology to match the man’s story to the bones. In late 2005, highly degraded biological samples were sent to the state lab where it took five years for scientists to develop a usable DNA profile. Meanwhile, San Bernardino County coroner investigators located two relatives of Walraven in Texas who provided DNA samples that were used for comparison.

“Something from the 1940s -– I’ve never heard or seen anything like that,” said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, a Santa Ana police spokesman.

Bertagna said homicide investigators were looking Friday for old files that would provide details of the case and whether the man –- now dead -- who confessed to Walraven’s murder was ever charged or convicted.