Cold case: Body found in Bothell was long unidentified

BOTHELL — Science brought her home. So did persistence.

Jodi DePaoli’s remains were discovered in 1988 in some woods near an illegal garbage dump in Bothell. It took nearly 20 years to determine the 16-year-old girl’s name and return her to her family.

Police are still hunting for the killer.

DePaoli is part of the state’s first deck of cold-case playing cards. Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives created the cards last year in hopes of soliciting new leads in dozens of unsolved homicides and missing persons cases dating back to the 1970s.

DePaoli is featured on the jack of clubs.

She was killed more than a year before she was found. Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives compiled a list of possible victims. DePaoli, a runaway, was on the list, but when investigators asked Seattle police about DePaoli, they were told she was no longer listed as a missing, sheriff’s detective Jim Scharf said.

“We don’t know if her name was removed from the system or if she’d run away, then was located and then ran away again but wasn’t reported,” Scharf said. “There are a lot of possibilities why she fell through the cracks.”

Her family hadn’t given up finding DePaoli. Her cousin called the Green River Task Force in 2003 asking if DePaoli was among serial killer Gary Ridgway’s unidentified victims.

New technology allowed investigators to compare DNA samples from the family members of missing women against those of the remains. The DNA from DePaoli’s family didn’t match any of the remains found by the Green River Task Force. The family’s DNA information was entered into the national database in 2005.

A few months later, Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Joe Ward asked forensic experts in Texas to collect a DNA sample from the unidentified girl found in 1988 in Bothell. A match was made from the genetic sample taken from DePaoli’s father three years earlier.

Jane Doe 1988 had a name, and 19 years and three days after she was found, her family laid her to rest, next to her grandmother and grandfather.

“There was relief especially when were able to bury her,” her younger brother Mario DePaoli said. “The only better relief is someone being caught.”

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com.

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