URBANA, Ill. (AP) — The remains of a woman have finally been identified a quarter of a century after they were discovered in a central Illinois field about 150 miles from her family home.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported Wednesday that authorities were able to identify the woman as Keri Lyn Wyant by comparing DNA extracted from bones found in 1995 near Thomasboro to DNA that had been uploaded to open source genealogy sites.
And while authorities declined to talk about a cause of death, citing the ongoing criminal investigation, they did report just last year that she died either by blunt-force trauma or was fatally shot.
Now authorities know her name, they say they are hopeful they can find someone who knew Wyant and investigate her death.
“We owe it to her and to her family to bring them closure,” Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman said at a news conference Tuesday at the coroner’s office.
Wyant was born in Galesburg in October 1971, attended high school in nearby Galva, and left home when she was about 14 years old. After she left home, she lived with relatives for a while then may have moved to a shelter in Peoria, according to her parents, who are still alive.
Since her remains were identified, investigators have determined that she worked at a number of fast food restaurants in the area and even at a gas station in Fina, Texas. Authorities say she gave birth to a son in May 1994 while she was living in Kewanee, Illinois, but gave the boy to a friend before she went to work at for a carnival at the Henry County Fair in Cambridge, Illinois.
Investigators believe it was the carnival that might have brought her to Champaign County in 1994, since its operator had bookings at fairs in the area at that time.
Wyant was 23 or 24 when she was last seen alive, but perhaps because of her somewhat nomadic lifestyle, nobody ever reported her missing.
“It certainly does seem like she was moving around a lot,” said Dwayne Roelfs, a Champaign County Sheriff’s office investigator.
Now, though, Northrup and Roelfs hope that somebody who worked with Wyant will learn about her death and provide information to investigators that might point them to Wyant’s killer.
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