Genealogy services

Sacramento sheriff uses DNA to identify homicide victim

Using DNA genealogy techniques to track down the killers, authorities have identified the human remains of a transient woman who was killed and found 14 years ago in southern Sacramento County.

The identity of Shannon Vielguth, born in 1969, has been confirmed through the DNA of a close relative, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday in a press release.

The investigation into his death began on March 29, 2008, when sheriff’s officials received a call about the discovery of possible human remains in the Tyler Island and Georgiana Slough area in the Delta.

Over the next three days, homicide investigators, forensic scientists from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office Forensic Services Laboratory and the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office worked at the scene and exhumed the remains. .

Sheriff’s officials said the coroner’s office classified the death as a homicide and determined the victim was likely killed in the fall of 2004. The investigation to identify the human remains continued for another 13 years. .

shannon vielguth.jpg
Shannon Vielguth is seen in a 2003 photo provided by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. Vielguth was identified on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 as the victim of a 2004 homicide in the Delta. Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office

Sheriff’s officials said investigators reviewed hundreds of missing person reports, released photographs of clothing and jewelry found with the human remains, and a composite drawing of what the victim might have looked like. A facial reconstruction, using the victim’s skull, was also released to the media, but the victim remained unidentified.

Authorities launched a genetic genealogy investigation into his death last year. In these investigations, authorities upload a DNA profile to open-source genealogy websites to find people who may be related to the subject of the investigation and narrow their search until investigators can confirm a match.

The same DNA genealogy techniques were used to identify and capture the Golden State Killer and the NorCal Rapist. More recently, DNA genealogy was used to identify the man who brutally stabbed Nancy Marie Bennallack to death, the oldest solved cold case in Sacramento County history.

Sheriff officials said investigators learned that Vielguth had been living as a transient in the six months prior to her murder. She has lived in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, Nevada and California. She used other surnames, including Judkins, Hutchings, and Joyce.

Law enforcement records show Vielguth was most likely in Reno and Sacramento in October 2004, which coincides with when she was likely killed, according to the sheriff’s office.

Investigators have asked anyone with information about Vielguth’s murder or her whereabouts in the months leading up to her death to call the Sheriff’s Office Homicide Bureau at 916-874-5057 or Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at 916-443-4357. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling 916-874-8477 or completing the Sheriff’s Office Online Tipping Form.

Related Sacramento Bee Stories

Rosalio Ahumada writes breaking news stories related to crime and public safety for The Sacramento Bee. He is fluent in Spanish and has worked as a journalist in the Central Valley since 2004.