DNA helps identify woman whose body was found at bottom of Bay Area cliff nearly 60 years ago

JENNER, CA - APRIL 01: The cove at Stockhoff Creek in Jenner. Photographed on Friday, April 1, 2022. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
The cove at Stockhoff Creek in Jenner, Calif. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

DNA analysis has helped identify a woman whose body was found at the bottom of a cliff in the Bay Area nearly 60 years ago, authorities said.

The woman's decomposed remains were found Feb. 3, 1967, at the base of a cliff on Highway 1, near Jenner, about 80 miles north of San Francisco, according to a Sonoma County Sheriff's Office news release. Multiple fractures to her skull and ribs were determined to be the cause of death, but it was unknown how she sustained those injuries.

Efforts to identify her were unsuccessful. She was eventually listed as Jane Doe and laid to rest at the County of Sonoma Cemetery shortly afterward, authorities said.

In 2009, the woman's body was exhumed with the help of anthropology professor Mark Griffin of San Francisco State University, authorities said. Her death was then determined to be a homicide.

In 2023, Othram Inc., a forensic genetic analysis company, analyzed her DNA and identified her as Lillian Marie Cardenas, authorities said. The investigation found that Cardenas was born in 1928 and last lived in San Francisco; she was estranged from her family members before her death.

But many questions remain. Anyone with information about Cardenas' life or death is encouraged to contact the Sonoma County Sheriff's Cold Case Unit at (707) 565-2727 or email sheriff-coldcase@sonoma-county.org.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.