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Remains Of 40th Green River Victim Identified

June 1, 1988

SEATTLE (AP) _ Remains dug up this week are those of the Green River Killer’s 40th victim, but the commander of the search for the nation’s worst known serial killer says it’s unlikely the find will lead to a breakthrough in the six-year-old case.

The bones and skull of Debra Lorraine Estes, a runaway who long had been feared a victim of the killer, were identified Tuesday through dental records.

In addition to the 40 women known dead, eight missing women are listed as probable victims of the killer, who frequently dumped bodies in clusters in woods east and south of Seattle.

Ms. Estes, who was 15 when she vanished nearly six years ago, had been on the missing list until her remains were found Monday by workers digging post holes at a new apartment complex in Federal Way, a town between Seattle and Tacoma, said King County Police Sgt. Steve Davis.

″Like everything else that comes up, this answers one question and poses 100 more,″ said Capt. Robert Evans, commander of the King County Police Green River task force.

He said it was unlikely the discovery would yield any breakthroughs in the case.

The case takes its name from the Green River in south King County, where the bodies of the first five victims were found in the summer of 1982.

Ms. Estes’ family declined to be interviewed Tuesday.

Ms. Estes, also known as Betty Lorraine Jones, was reported as a juvenile runaway by her parents in July 1982. She was last seen Sept. 20, 1982, along Pacific Highway South in Federal Way. The area is 8 miles south of a strip of the highway near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that was frequented by many of the victims, most of whom had ties to prostitution.

She was included on the Green River missing list on April 23, 1984.

Ms. Estes had prior contacts with King County and Seattle police for prostitution and theft.

Her remains were identified by comparison with dental X-rays on file with the county medical examiner’s office, said Vaughn Van Zant, medical investigator.

The cause of death was listed as ″homicidal violence of undetermined nature,″ the official cause listed for all Green River victims.

The victims disappeared between the summer of 1982 and early 1984. The bodies of four were found in Oregon, but the killer has operated primarily in the Puget Sound area.

The killer is thought to have picked up many of his victims along the ″Sea-Tac strip,″ an area of motels and fast food restaurants near the airport. Others disappeared from downtown Seattle and the city’s Aurora Avenue and Rainier Valley area.

The early victims were strangled. Police later refused to discuss causes of death and attributed them only to ″homicidal violence.″

The most recent ″bone find″ before Monday was last June, when the bones of 17-year-old Cindy Anne Smith were discovered in a wooded ravine about 15 miles south of Seattle. Ms. Smith, an underage topless dancer, disappeared March 21, 1984, from the Sea-Tac strip.

The police task force investigating the Green River killings has said that it has 50 to 70 suspects.

In February 1986, the task force picked up a 52-year-old Seattle man and questioned him for nearly 11 hours before telling him he was free to go. The home of a second mn was later searched, but there have been no arrests.

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