After 25 Years, Serial Killer's Fourth Victim Identified

Kerry Ann Cummings' family last heard from her in 1997
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2023 6:03 AM CDT
Serial Killer's Victim Identified After More Than 25 Years
Kerry Ann Cummings.   (Humboldt County Sheriff's Office)

For more than 25 years, family members wondered what had happened to Kerry Ann Cummings. Thanks to forensic genealogy, they now have closure, but her fate was a grim one. Investigators say Cummings, who was 25 years old and suffering from untreated mental illness when her family last heard from her in 1997, was murdered by a serial killer. Wayne Adam Ford turned himself in at a police station in Eureka, California, in November 1998, carrying a Bible and a woman's body part in a plastic bag, the Los Angeles Times reports. He confessed to murdering four women and said he didn't know the name of one of them. Ford was convicted of four murders in 2006 and is on death row at San Quentin.

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office says advances in DNA technology helped them determine that a torso found by duck hunters north of Eureka in October 1997 was that of Cummings, KCRC reports. Her sister, Kathie Cummings, provided a DNA sample that was a match. She told investigators that Kerry had been couch-surfing in the Eugene, Oregon, area and refused to come home when her family last heard from her. "Kerry was beautiful, funny, smart, and an artist. She was great at making us laugh," Kathie Cummings told investigators, per a press release from the sheriff's department. "It is devastating what mental illness can do in a span of only two short years."

Kathie Cumming said her parents tried to report Kerry missing and hired a private investigator, but a missing persons report was never taken due to laws at the time. "They were told that Kerry was an adult, that she had chosen the lifestyle, and that if she wasn’t a threat to herself or others," there was nothing they could do. As the internet expanded, she said, she started searching the National Missing and Unidentified Persons website when she was missing her sister, "scanning for mention of her tattoo and searching through the pictures of the Jane Does. She was dearly loved." The sheriff's office says the county coroner is working to release Kerry's remains for burial with other family members. (More serial killer stories.)

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