A human foot found washed ashore south of Victoria in Washington state has been identified as belonging to a woman who had gone missing years earlier, according to U.S. authorities.
In December 2021, a witness told police they spotted a foot in a shoe at the mouth of the Elwha River near Port Angeles, Wash., prompting investigators to search the area and rediscover the sneaker hours later, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
Investigators then determined it was a women’s size eight New Balance-brand shoe, but due to the limited recovery of the person’s remains, they could not determine their identifying features like age, ethnicity, height or hair colour, said police.
That led investigators to pursue various leads, the sheriff’s office wrote to Facebook. However, the case eventually went cold, leaving the person’s identity a mystery.
Flash forward to 2022 when the sheriff’s office partnered with staff at Othram Lab of The Woodlands in Texas, which, thanks to an identified DNA source, was able to provide a list of surviving family members to confirm who the foot belonged to.
A DNASolves.com crowdfund was established to cover casework costs, according to police.
“Sheriff’s detectives contacted one of the surviving family members who voluntarily provided a DNA sample which was sent to Othram Labs for comparison,” they said, noting that shortly after, Othram confirmed it was Jerilyn L. Smith’s foot.
Smith, a resident of Sequim, Wash., was reported missing on Jan. 7, 2018. She was 68 years old at the time of her disappearance, states case details posted to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System website.
“Her husband found Jerilyn’s car parked near the Elwha River Bridge west of Port Angeles. Search and Rescue dogs tracked Jerilyn’s scent to the middle of the bridge directly over the river. Divers searched the river and the banks down to the beaches along the Straits of Juan De Fuca. Jerilyn was never found,” reads the post.
The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with information that could aid their investigation to call their tip line at 360-417-2540, referencing case #2021-00023819.
“The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office would also like to thank all those who participated in funding the DNA research on this case that ultimately helped a family with having some semblance of closure during the grieving loss of their loved one,” added police.
This isn’t the first found-foot case in recent memory, as detached feet have been showing up near shorelines around Vancouver Island, the Southern Gulf Islands, Vancouver and Washington state for over a decade.
On New Year’s Day 2019, beachgoers on Jetty Island, a small man-made island owned by the Port of Everett in Washington, stumbled across a boot with a human foot inside. Less than a year prior, in May 2018, RCMP and the BC Coroners Service were investigating after a foot was found on Gabriola Island off Nanaimo.