Skull not that of missing teen; DNA tests rule out Jamie Grisim, who vanished in 1971
The Columbian (Vancouver, WA)
February 11, 2006
JOHN BRANTON, Columbian staff writer
More results for:
DNA tests on a skull found in a remote area of Clark County in 1980 have ruled out the chance it was that of Jamie Grisim, who vanished from Vancouver in 1971 at age 16.
With that news received Thursday, Clark County Sheriff's Detective Rick Buckner now is waiting for DNA tests to see if the skull was that of another missing girl.
And the mystery of Grisim's disappearance remains, along with 34 years of emptiness, for her sister, Starr Lara.
"In my heart I know that she's dead," Lara said Friday. "She never got a funeral. She never got anything. She's gone but not forgotten."
Back on Dec. 7, 1971, a cold day that later brought snow, Grisim, a student at Fort Vancouver High School, had told Lara she would walk home after classes. Lara was 14.
When Grisim didn't arrive, Lara called all her friends, but none knew where Grisim was.
In the spirit of the times, officials noted that the girl had been wearing blue "hip-hugger" jeans, a striped blouse and white tennis shoes with the words "peace" and "love" handwritten on them.
Lara, now a resident of Hillsboro, Ore., suspects that her sister's supply of peace and love ran out at that time, as do homicide detectives. The next year, Grisim's purse, identification and other belongings were found near a trail.
And that was it.
In 33 years since her purse turned up, no trace of the girl was found, as far as anyone knows.
Clark County Sheriff's Office detectives, like Lara, suspect that Grisim was murdered by Warren Leslie Forrest, who drew a life sentence for another murder, in 1974, but has denied killing Grisim.
In a curious way, Lara's hopes of learning what happened to Grisim were raised in the past few years then dashed again.
Two men who were panning for gold in remote northeastern Clark County along Fly Creek in February 1980 found a skull that never was linked to anyone.
In February 2005, Detective Buckner sent the skull to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The center used computers and other modern techniques to create an image of what the girl whose skull was found would have looked like.
Since the image matched Grisim's face in some ways, DNA from the skull was compared with that from Grisim's family.
On Thursday, Buckner learned that the DNA ruled out Grisim, and he told Lara that same day.
"I would have been upset either way," Lara said Friday. "But I would have had some answers (if the DNA had matched Grisim). It's just really hard when you don't know where they are."
There are no answers about Grisim now, but there's still hope some may surface later.
For one thing, Buckner said, the girl's DNA now is in a nationwide database. If her body is found in another area, detectives can check to see if its DNA matches that from Grisim's family.
Lara suspects her sister's body already has been found somewhere but hasn't yet been identified.
In addition, Lara said, Grisim's story and photograph are kept alive on the Internet.
"Jamie is probably on six or seven Web sites," Lara said. "There's a lot of people working on missing persons cases, trying to solve them."
One such Web site is www.doenetwork.us, operated by The Doe Network, an International Center for Unidentified & Missing Persons. The center, formed in 1999, calls itself a volunteer group that works with law enforcement agencies to solve cold cases, including unexplained disappearances like that of Grisim, and unidentified victims in North America, Europe and Australia.
"It is our mission to give the nameless back their names and return the missing to their families," the Web site says.
In the next two or three weeks, Buckner said, he hopes to receive DNA testing results to see if the skull matches another girl, Cherie Wyant, who disappeared at age 14 in 1978. Wyant, who also called herself Cherie Larson, had lived in California and Clark County.
Like Lara, Wyant's sister, Jackie Schille, has been hoping to learn something.
"I'll be disappointed either way, but at least we would know," Schille told The Columbian last year.
Anyone with information about missing persons who might have resembled the image made from the skull is asked to call Detective Rick Buckner at 877-CRIME11.
John Branton covers crime and law enforcement for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-759-8012 or firstname.lastname@example.org://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23300141.html