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For decades, human remains tied to the ‘Green River killer’ were known only as Bones 17. Now, DNA testing has revealed a name

By Sara Smart and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

(CNN) — For nearly 40 years, a set of human remains discovered near Seattle in 1985 were known to investigators only as Bones 17. And it was 17 years later that police confirmed the remains belonged to a victim of the so-called “Green River Killer” – but they still didn’t know the victim’s name.

Until this week.

King County authorities on Tuesday announced they identified the remains as belonging to Lori Anne Razpotnik, a teenager who ran away from her family’s home in Lewis County, south of Seattle, in 1982. That was the last time her family saw her alive.

Razpotnik’s remains were found in December 1985 near a second set of remains – referred to as Bones 16 – in the city of Auburn after police were called to investigate a car over an embankment, the King County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The Green River Task Force was called in to oversee the investigation, but the remains were not identified, the release said.

Years went by before there was a break in the case: Gary Ridgway was arrested in November 2001 after DNA evidence linked him to some of the earliest victims in the string of unsolved killings in the Seattle area.

In 2002, Ridgway led investigators to the location where Bones 16 and Bones 17 were found and admitted placing the victims there, the sheriff’s office release said.

Both sets of remains, still unidentified, were among the 48 counts of aggravated murder, Ridgway pleaded guilty to in 2003, making him one of the most prolific serial killers in US history. He pleaded guilty to a 49th murder charge in 2011.

In 2012, DNA testing helped investigators identify Bones 16 as the remains of Sandra Majors.

And this week, authorities announced Razpotnik’s positive identification, noting the help of advanced DNA testing done by Virginia-based Parabon Nanolabs, which developed a new DNA profile to begin the forensic genetic genealogy process, combining DNA data with traditional genealogy.

“After extensive research, they concluded that the victim was Lori Anne Razpotnik,” the sheriff’s office said.

A lab at the University of North Texas then used a saliva sample provided by Razpotnik’s mother to conduct DNA comparison testing and confirmed the match, according to the sheriff’s office.

“The King County Sheriff’s Office is immensely grateful for the work Parabon Nanolabs, The University of North Texas, the countless number of members of the King’s County Sheriff’s Office, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, and others who worked on helping identify Lori Anne Razpotnik, formerly known as Bones-17,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement to CNN.

Ridgway is currently being held at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary in Washington. He’s imprisoned without the possibility of parole, according to King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Eric White. The “Green River Killer” moniker came from a river south of Seattle where Ridgway began dumping his victims in 1982.

All but two of his victims’ bodies were found near Seattle. The others were found in Oregon.

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