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Still searching for answers: Five ‘cold cases’ being investigated in Deschutes County

Sheriff's Office hopes better DNA technology will help bring closure

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is hoping for more advances in technology and help from the public to solve five open "cold cases" in Deschutes County.

With the help of advanced DNA technology, the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office has identified the killer of two people found dead more than four decades ago.

Deputies say the remains of 17-year-old Cynthia Frayer and 19-year-old Kirk Wiseman were found shot in the head in a wooded area near Lake of the Woods in 1978.

Five years earlier, a similar cold case shocked Deschutes County.

On July 11, 1973, 17-year-old Bend High student Susan Ann Wickersham was last seen dropping off her family’s car to her mother at the Sage Room Restaurant in downtown Bend.

Reports said she was expecting friends to pick her up, but she never made it back home.

Her partial remains were found by a woodcutter just five miles south of Bend, near where the High Desert Museum was later built, on Jan. 20, 1976.

Reports at the time said her skull showed she had been shot in the head.

Sheriff's deputies and detectives also are still looking for Angela Chan of Redmond, who disappeared on March 27, 1989, after her husband dropped her off at her home.

She was 19 years old at the time of her disappearance.

Detectives and family members say Chan was last seen leaving her parents’ house with her estranged husband, Bruce, who drove up to Redmond for Easter weekend.

Two days later, they say, her car was found abandoned along Highway 126 near Cline Falls, with its window smashed out and her purse and shoes still inside.

Wendy Henrikson, Chan’s older sister, met with NewsChannel 21 recently, at the spot where her sister's car was found.

She described her sister Angela as a tomboy, who was very social and had a lot of friends.

“I wish (the sheriff’s office) would’ve held onto her car,” Henrikson said. “Because now, with DNA and how far things have come, maybe if they had never released that car, there would’ve been some answers there.”

She said she hopes witnesses will come forward about what they might know.

“I wish the district attorney and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office would do something about this,” Henrikson said. “It doesn’t seem to matter that my family hasn’t had answers for all these years.”

Sheriff's Sgt. Jayson Janes says they remain hopeful advances in technology will help them get closer to solving these cases.

“Those cases will remain open until we can locate them and figure out what happened,” Janes said. “Our goal is to not have cold cases. We want to give these families closure.”

He said detectives have used various investigative techniques to try and solve the cases over the years, including the help of K-9 dogs and searching various areas the missing people were known to spend time in.

“Their procedures were done differently in 1976 than they are today,” Janes said.

He said at one point, there were four detectives in the cold case department. 

As the ranks of detectives change, the cold cases are eventually reassigned to new detectives. Janes said the longer the cases stay open, the more difficult it becomes to find witnesses or people who may have known what happened.

“We always have a fresh set of eyes that can look at these cases, which can generate different questions,” he said. “To not have the family or friends to be able to ask those questions of can be difficult.""

About two years ago, Janes said he spoke with the state medical examiner, Dr. Nici Vance, about an unidentified deceased person deputies found in 2004.

He said they still have not been able to identify the man and are currently trying to get his DNA tested using genetic genealogy (GG).

“They had recently gotten a grant about a year ago, so now they have the ability to do that testing, which they weren’t able to before,” Janes said.

He said the process is costly. One test costs about $7,000.

The sheriff’s office also is still searching for Ron Nordstrom, who went missing while biking just outside of Redmond in 1999, and Gary Larsen, a La Pine man who was last seen in Redmond in 2001.

NewsChannel 21 asked Janes which of the cases the office may be the closest to solving. He said at this point in time, they are all fairly equal. 

The sheriff’s office is asking the public for any information or evidence they can use to solve the cases.

“There’s somebody out there that knows something about any of these cases,” Janes said. “It may be the piece to the puzzle that we don’t have yet.”

If you have information about any of these cases that could lead to an arrest -- or simply answers to the many unanswered questions -- you can call the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office at 541-693-6911.

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts
cold cases
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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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