Detectives seek information about 1976 disappearance, death of Wanda Ann Herr

COURTESY PHOTO: CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE - A breakthrough has been made in a case that began after this skull was discovered in the 1980s near Government Camp. Detectives are asking the public to help uncover the mystery behind a decades-old skull discovered near Government Camp that belonged to a 19-year-old girl who disappeared in 1976.

Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, with help from a forensic artist, has produced an age-progressed sketch of Wanda Ann Herr, creating an approximate picture of how she may have looked when she disappeared and died almost 44 years ago in the Gresham area.

COURTESY PHOTO: CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE - Investigators have created an age-progressed sketch of 19-year-old Wanda Ann Herr, who disappeared and died more than 40 years ago. The case began Aug. 2, 1986, when two Forest Service workers discovered a partial skull, several bone fragments, and a single human tooth on Still Creek Road 2612 and Road 145, near Government Camp off Highway 26.

Eleven days later a forensic examiner determined the skull likely had been in the woods for a decade, but was unable to glean any information beyond it likely belonging to a woman or small man in their 20s.

In 2005 the remains were re-curated, and in 2008 the skull was confirmed to have belonged to a woman in her late teens to early 20s. That same year a clay facial reconstruction generated several tips, but no solid leads.

Last year, a major breakthrough in the case occurred. In January 2019 the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office received grant funds to perform genetic genealogy and DNA phenotyping on 100 unidentified human skeletal remains — the same process used to track down the Golden State Killer in 2018.

DNA phenotyping predicts the physical appearance and ancestry of an unknown person from their DNA; genetic genealogy can help identify an unknown person by searching for relatives in public databases and building family trees.

COURTESY PHOTO: CLACKAMAS COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE - The only photo of Wanda Ann Herr is when she was 12 years old. Investigators learned the Government Camp skull belonged to a female of Northern European descent with fair skin, hazel/brown eyes, brown hair and some freckles. They confirmed the victim was Herr after contacting her surviving sisters.

Herr is believed to have disappeared sometime after June 1976. At the time she may have been living in a Gresham group home. Information about her is scarce, police said, as she was raised in a different household than her sisters. Detectives believe she was a chronic runaway, though interviews did not back that assertion. She had no DMV record, no bank account, and no police reports mention her.

Anyone who knew Herr, her associates or her whereabouts in the 1970s is asked to contact the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office tip line at 503-723-4949 or by using an online email form at Reference CCSO Case No. 86-025724

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.