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Missing woman from 1994 likely identified

Posted at 3:00 PM, Dec 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 17:00:15-05

The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office has announced the likely identification of a woman who disappeared on the Salmon River -- some 21 years ago.

According to an Idaho County Sheriff’s Office news release, Patricia Louise Tamosaitis disappeared from the Salmon River on August 28th, 1994.

Tamosaitis went under the water while floating with a partner in an inflatable two-person kayak along a section known as Snow Hole Rapids. 

“Tamosaitis went under the water and likely became trapped. The other person was saved and twenty minutes later, the life jacket worn by Tamosaitis surfaced,” said ICSO spokeswoman Trudy Slagle.

The body was never recovered.

On July 20th, 1996, a BLM employee discovered a human skull on a sand bar a short distance below Snow Hole Rapids. The skull was recovered and sent to a University of Idaho Anthropology professor. The professor stated in a report that the skull was of a young Native American.

“The skull is probably that of a Native American male 17-20 years old at the time of death,” the professor noted in his report. “From the overall state of preservation, I would estimate that the individual died at least twenty years ago.”

On August 7th, 1996, another BLM employee discovered a humerus bone in the same area. No other human remains were found.

After sixteen years, the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office started to investigate the case again, and decided to send the remains to be re-evaluated by the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, Slagle stated.

The ICSO states that the decision to reexamine the case was based on two factors:

1) Advances in forensic sciences. Since the remains were discovered in 1996 and the ability to extract DNA from the remains.

2) Despite the claim from the University of Idaho professor that the skull belonged to a Native American, the coincidence was too strong that the remains were not of Tamosaitis, based on the location.

A forensic evaluation was conducted from UNT and the results came back mixed, Slagle said.

The report, which was released back to the ICSO in September of 2012, stated “Profiles for both the recovered humerus (adult female) and cranium (likely 30- to 60-year- old female) are consistent with the profile of Patricia Louise Tamosaitis. The identity of the humerus cannot be ruled [out] as Ms. Tamosaitis. However, it is unlikely this cranium represents Ms. Tamosaitis.”

The report further explained the latter conclusion by stating, “The eroded condition and absence of all soft tissue would likely require greater than two years in a river environment.”

In May 2015, scientists at UNT had extracted DNA from the remains, and the ICSO found the Tamosaitis’ children.

The children submitted their own DNA samples for comparison and by December 22nd, 2015, UNT has completed a Missing Person DNA Database report.

The report clarified that the DNA data submitted from the children, “remained consistent with the DNA extracted from the remains.”

The report continued by saying, “These genetic data (autosomal STR's and mitochondrial DNA) are approximately 833 trillion times more likely to be observed under the scenario that the unidentified remains originated from the biological mother [of Patricia's children] as opposed to the unidentified remains originating from an unrelated individual from the Caucasian population... The above reported statistical value provides very strong support for the declared biological relationship between the unidentified human remains and family references.”

The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office stated the work conducted by the UNT scientist and local law enforcement was done in efforts to bring closure for the family.