JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. (WALA) -- Skeletal remains found in a swampy part of Ward Bayou in Vancleave, Miss., have been identified 30 years later as belonging to a missing Pennsylvania woman, according to authorities in Jackson County.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell announced that the woman has been identified as Kimberly Ann Funk, who was born in 1969 in Sharon, Penn.
She was identified thanks to DNA evidence and the persistence of cold case investigators, the sheriff's office said.
The remains were found on Feb. 1, 1991. Investigators believe the body was there in the swampy woods for up to three weeks before being discovered.
Authorities, unable to identify her at the time, referred to the woman only as Jane Doe.
Although the case was ruled a homicide, it eventually also became a cold case with no leads.
It was in 2012 when Pascagoula Police investigator Darren Versiga, former Jackson County coroner Vicki Broadus and sheriff’s investigators began looking at the county’s unsolved deaths. A clay model of Jane Doe was sent to the University of North Texas, where the most updated DNA extraction and processing was being conducted.
The remains of Jane Doe were transferred to the Mississippi Crime Lab, still unidentified.
Investigators say that in 2019 an anonymous donor helped the Mississippi Crime Lab to finance new, updated DNA testing through Othram Inc., based in The Woodlands, Texas. Researchers were able to build a family tree using DNA that could potentially help identify the Vancleave Jane Doe.
In March this year, Othram identified a possible brother of the victim in Pennsylvania. Cold case investigators talked with him, and he confirmed that he had a sister named Kimberly, missing since 1990.
DNA swabs were collected from him and sent to Othram for comparison. Within two weeks, tests confirmed the DNA a match.
Jane Doe was then known to be Kimberly Ann Funk.
With her brother’s help, investigators learned Funk arrived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Houston, Texas, between April and June of 1990.
The cold case investigative team is still working to piece together a timeline of her life between April 1990 and the time she was found in February 1991.
Anyone with information that could help investigators is asked to contact Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at 228-769-3063. Anonymous tips can also be made to Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers or by calling 877-787-5898.