Santa Cruz police said Thursday they have solved a nearly two-decade-old mystery by identifying a teenage girl whose body was found by hikers in 1994 in a park near the UC Santa Cruz campus.
In a case dubbed “Pogonip Jane,” police identified the remains as those of 17-year-old Kori Joanne Lamaster, Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark said.
The girl’s partially buried body was found in Pogonip Park by a pair of hikers on Jan. 29, 1994, and she remained unidentified until police found matches for her fingerprints and DNA in October, Clark said.
Kori’s death remains an open homicide case and police have identified two persons of interest — Wayne White, a Tennessee resident, and his son Greg, who is now dead, Clark said.
The case was originally investigated by then-officer Loran “Butch” Baker, one of the two Santa Cruz police officers gunned down on the job in February. Baker, who was the lead investigator on the case in the 1990s, picked up the case again after being promoted to sergeant and it continued to “haunt” him, Clark said.
Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler were shot to death on Feb. 26 as they were attempting to contact a suspect in a misdemeanor sex assault case at his home.
Other police detectives took up the case after Baker died, and a major break came with a DNA match to a family member of Kori’s in October, Clark said.
Kori lived in Pacifica, but her family did not file a missing-persons report with the Pacifica Police Department until 2007, even though she went missing in 1993, according to Clark.
Her family submitted DNA samples in 2008 to Pacifica police, and in October, a California Department of Justice laboratory notified Santa Cruz police about the DNA findings, Clark said.
Santa Cruz police Detective Bruce Cline tracked down Kori’s father and then her sister, who was living in Washington state, who furnished Cline with a fingerprint card containing Kori’s prints from when Kori was very young, Clark said.
As the case was investigated over the years, Santa Cruz police had created a clay model reconstruction of her skull to produce a likeness that was posted on a Facebook page to generate leads, Clark said.
Santa Cruz police are interested in talking to anyone with information about Wayne and Greg White or who may have seen Kori in the Santa Cruz area in 1993, Clark said.