It was April 1, 1990, when Andrea Kuiper of Fairfax, Virginia, crossed the Pacific Coash Highway in Huntington Beach, California.
The 26-year-old woman was hit and killed by two cars that day. But her family never discovered what happened to her until last week, when officials used a fingerprint test to confirm her identity.
Nearly 30 years later, the Kuiper family gets closure.
“We are thankful to know what happened to our daughter after all these years,” said Kuiper’s father, Richard Kuiper.
“Andrea was loved and respected. She was beautiful,” he said. “But she was manic depressive, and therefore we had been through quite an adventure.”
The Orange County Coroner Division worked the case over the years, even pushing to have it featured on the television show, “Unsolved Mysteries,” and in numerous newspaper articles, but the woman’s identity continued to elude investigators.
“We never forgot her and would regularly pull out her file to see if we could think of anything new to try,” said Kelly Keyes, Supervising Deputy Coroner. “The investigators at the Coroner’s Office never stopped trying to figure out who she was, just as they do with the more than 90 unidentified decedents that we have.”
At the time of Kuiper’s death, her information was provided to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The organization recreated images of what Kuiper might have looked like. Those images were circulated in the media, but she remained unidentified.
In 2010, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) was created. NamUs provided a searchable database to assist in solving cases involving unidentified human remains. Shortly after its creation, the coroner’s division input Kuiper’s information and hoped for a hit.
Coroner investigators revisited the case as recently as eight months ago after learning Kuiper may have had connections in Newport News, Virginia, but their work didn’t turn out any new information.
In early 2017, NamUs partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a fingerprint project that more closely examines fingerprints of unidentified decedents against an ever-growing database that has old fingerprints regularly added.
On Thursday, May 4, 2017, the FBI notified the Orange County coroner of the forensic match. Coroner investigators worked with Fairfax law enforcement to contact Kuiper’s parents and provide them closure after nearly three decades.
Kuiper’s family has asked their privacy be respected at this time.
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