Decapitated woman found in California vineyard identified nearly 13 years later

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A decapitated woman found in a California vineyard has been identified almost 13 years later thanks to DNA testing, officials said.

Ada Beth Kaplan, 64, of Canyon Country, California, was found March 29, 2011, at the Grapevine Vineyard in Arvin, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

She was found without a head or thumbs, and the body appeared to have been posed, NBC affiliate KGET of Bakersfield reported. Arvin is about 21 miles southeast of Bakersfield.

Earlier efforts to identify the body were futile, with two out-of-county missing persons cases being ruled out by DNA, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Grapevine Vineyard in Arvin, Calif.Google Maps

“A postmortem examination was conducted and the cause of death was Undetermined and the manner of death was Homicide,” the sheriff’s office said in the release. “Jane Doe was laid to rest at Union Cemetery after all leads to identify her were unsuccessful.”

In February 2020, the Kern County Coroner’s Office, working with the DNA Doe Project, successfully identified a Jane Doe from 1980 using genealogy, according to the sheriff’s office. Months later, the DNA Doe Project began building a genetic profile and family tree for the headless woman found in the vineyard.

In July 2023, two family members living on the East Coast were identified and provided DNA samples for comparison, which helped identify the woman as Kaplan, the sheriff’s office said.

Kern County detectives learned from interviewing family members that a missing person report was never filed for her.

A cause of death has not yet been determined by the coroner’s office and no suspects have been arrested in connection with her death.

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