A University of Minnesota Student missing for 49 years is identified using DNA from her parents

Family: “Out of the blue, they had a match!”

Edgar Linares
February 13, 2019 - 7:07 pm
Crime Scene

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The remains of a missing University of Minnesota student who disappeared 49-years ago have been identified using DNA from her parents.

In 2013, Rich Rieken saw a news story in Rochester, MN encouraging families of missing loved ones to donate DNA samples.

“They had a database full of Jane Does, John Does, missing people,” said Rieken. “They were saying if you had a missing person in your family to come forward and provide a DNA sample. They would put your DNA in the database and try and find a match.”

Rich was two-years-old in November of 1970 when his oldest sister Gloria Frieda Rieken, 18, left on foot to class from her Minneapolis apartment and was never seen again. Gloria had a bright future, said her family.

“She was a really good artist,” said Rich. “She was an active teenager. She did door-to-door campaigning for Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.”

Years passed after Rich’s parents gave DNA samples, then last week the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension called Rich.

“Out of the blue, they had a match!” said Rieken.

Now the mystery of her 49-year disappearance is known. On Nov. 10, 1970, a neighbor discovered human remains inside an abandoned, burned home in Mille Lacs County.

In 1970, a medical examiner identified the remains to be that of a woman and that the fire did not cause her death. Her remains where later buried in the Milo Cemetery in Mille Lacs County and she was listed as Jane Doe.

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Then in August of 2018, the BCA and a forensic anthropologist assisted the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office with exhuming the remains to obtain a DNA sample. On February 5, 2019, a match was made using the database.

“Learning her identity gave us our first break in this case in nearly a half century,” said Mille Lacs County Sheriff Don Lorge. “Now we can try to piece together how she came to be in Mille Lacs County, and hopefully, how she died.”

The BCA’s Superintend Drew Evans said their focus is on how Gloria died.

“Without her family’s decision to come forward, we would never have been able to identify Gloria Rieken,” said BCA Deputy Superintendent of Forensic Science Services Knutson.

According to National Institute of Justice, 40-thousand sets of unidentified remains are held in medical examiners offices across the country. 15 percent of unidentified remains have been entered into the FBI’s missing person database.

In Minnesota, there are currently 240 people who have been missing for more than a year. At any given time there are more than 500 missing Minnesotans.