For 27 years, investigators at California's Orange County Sheriff’s Department's Coroner Division would periodically pull out a case file that kept nagging at them. On April 1, 1990, a woman was attempting to cross the Pacific Coast Highway when she was struck by two passing cars and died at the scene. Police sketches, fingerprints, and other methods of identification had proved fruitless; a spot on Unsolved Mysteries added little. Somewhere, the 26-year-old woman’s family must be wondering what happened to her.
The Division’s dogged pursuit of her identity has finally paid off. Last week, the Sheriff’s Department announced [PDF] that the accident victim was Andrea Kuiper, a woman who had recently moved to California from Fairfax, Virginia, and who had apparently fallen out of touch with her family due to a drug habit and bouts of manic depression.
Kuiper’s name was revealed as the result of a recent partnership between the FBI and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a database of research information for cold cases. As part of their expansion of resources, NamUs was recently able to access fingerprint data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s hiring history. As it turns out, Kuiper once worked for the department. When her employee information was added to the database, investigators got a match.
The Orange County Coroner Division notified Fairfax authorities, who reached out to Kuiper’s family. “We are thankful to know what happened to our daughter after all these years,” Andrea's father, Richard Kuiper, was quoted as saying in a press release. Until the discovery, he said they maintained hope that they would one day find her arriving back home in a “car full of beautiful children.”