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True Crime Stories – Andrea Doe Reclaims Her Name

On an April night in 1990, a young woman stepped onto the Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, California and was struck by a car as she attempted to cross. As she went reeling toward the asphalt, she was then struck by a second car. When the police arrived at the scene, the young woman was already deceased.

The woman was not carrying identification. In her pockets, they found a bus schedule, a motel-like key, a stone and a lock of hair.

With the hope of identifying her, a sketch was created and released to the public. An actual photo could not be used because traumatic injuries from the accident caused her face to be unrecognizable.

Several local people came forward after the sketch was released and provided what information they could, based on interactions they had with the young woman on the days preceding her death. In summary, authorities learned that her name was Andrea, she was possibly from New York or the Newport News area, and that she was adopted and had traveled to California in search of her biological parents. She had claimed to be in her mid-twenties.

One man said the young woman appeared to be homeless and had stayed a night with his family. The day before the accident, they had given her some money to buy the clothes and shoes she was wearing when she died.

The information collected was more than law enforcement had initially, but not enough to confirm Andrea’s identity so that her family could be notified.

Investigators suspected that Andrea could be as young as 17 and so they submitted her data to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A computer-generated model of what Andrea might look like was created and the resulting images were circulated to the media. Still, nothing came of it and Andrea remained a Jane Doe, now referred to as “Andrea Doe”.

Ten years later in 2010, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) was created. NamUs is an information clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases across the United States. The Orange County Coroner’s Office uploaded Andrea’s information to the system, including her DNA, dental records and fingerprints.

Years passed with no new information and Andrea’s identity remained a mystery.

Kelly Keyes from the coroner’s office had been actively re-examining the case files with unidentified, unclaimed bodies over the years. As late as 2016, 26 years after the accident, Keyes reviewed Andrea Doe’s file and reached out to the Newport News police to check against their missing persons reports. There were no new reports that matched.

In 2017, NamUs and the FBI formed a partnership to identify unknown human remains, and the FBI entered Andrea Doe's fingerprints into the AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) fingerprint database. In May of 2017, the Orange County Coroner's Office was notified that a match was returned on Andrea Doe’s fingerprints. The prints were a match to Andrea Lee Kuiper, who had provided fingerprints back in 1987 as part of a job application for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fingerprints from that job application had recently been uploaded to a system that the FBI accessed and shared with NamUs.

Andrea’s parents and brother were located in Fairfax, Virginia and notified of the discovery. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the family was grateful to get some answers. “We are thankful to know what happened to our daughter after all these years,” said her father, Richard Kuiper.

Besides confirmation that Andrea had gone to California in 1989 and that the family last heard from her a few months before her death in 1990, the rest of the backstory is not clear. According to the family, they did not report her as missing because they believed she would come home at some point. Being that Andrea was around 25 when she left home, perhaps her being an adult was a factor.

Over the 27-year time span, Kelly Keyes and the Orange County Coroner’s Office did not give up on finding Andrea Doe’s true identity. Their efforts, as well as information sharing among agencies and organizations, factored into this outcome. According to news articles, Keyes said that improved fingerprint analysis technology also helped match the prints. She is also quoted saying “This is one case among 90 decedents dating back to the mid-1950s. We're constantly reexamining these cases to get a name to these people and get that closure for the family…we're here to serve the public, to get answers for and support the families of the deceased. So, to finally get Andrea a name was doing exactly what we hoped to do."

Stacy currently provides technical writing services for the Extended Access Technologies business area of HID Global, focusing on biometric hardware and software. She has been writing for technology companies for over 20 years and has a passion for presenting complex information and ideas in a way that is easy for broad audiences to consume. Stacy joined HID in 2017, where she has focused exclusively on biometrics.