SPOKANE, Wash. – There are some crimes that are so heinous, those who spend their careers trying to solve them, know the facts will never leave them.
"This case will stick with me forever, yeah, for the rest of my life,” said Sgt. Zach Storment.”
He’s talking about the 1984 murder of a woman who went unidentified for 39 years. Forensic Genetic Genealogy led them to the victim's name, Ruth Belle Waymire. She was just 24 years old when detectives believe she was killed, dismembered and dumped in multiple locations.
“Spokane is a great place to live for things like this to happen, and to go unanswered, it’s shocking and unacceptable,” Storment said.
The case began when two fishermen found the decapitated, nude remains of a young woman in the Spokane River. By 1998, the victim's skull was also found in a vacant lot near 7th and Sherman. A positive ID for Ruth took nearly four decades. But the identity of whoever was responsible for her horrific death still remains a mystery.
“It is just shocking to the core,” Storment said. “What happened to her is beyond belief. Everyone deserves to have a name.”
And because of the tireless efforts from Storment, Medical Examiner Death Investigator Nicole Hamada, and others, she finally does. Even though it took until 2023, Storment says it wasn’t from a lack of trying by officers spanning decades. In 2001, SPD exhumed the victim’s body for DNA evidence.
“To begin the modern investigation on Spokane's Millie,” he said.
Storment says ‘Millie’ because that’s what the victim was referred to by media and investigators alike for years. A former detective’s daughter came up with the name, and it stuck. That was until Millie officially became Ruth, thanks to rapidly advancing DNA technology.
“Ultimately, Forensic Genetic Genealogy is the only way this case gets solved,” Storment said. “Without that, we wouldn't be here today.”
With the help of the company Othram Inc, the same company that helped them solve the murder of Candy Rogers, investigators were able to track down a probable sister of the victim. A sample from Deborah Waymire confirmed it, launching a new chapter of work for Storment.
"As far as what we know about Ruth, she lived in the Mead area,” he said. “She went to a grade school that no longer exists. She and her sister moved in with family when the parents divorced.”
That sister, Deborah, said the news of what happened to her big sister has been as heartbreaking as it is disturbing.
“She had no clothes on, she was left floating in the river like trash,” Deborah said. “The way she got killed (the news of it) felt like a sledgehammer hit me. I don’t know how someone could do that to another human being.”
The sisters lost contact after their mother died in the early 1980s. Their father is deceased too.
“The only family I had was my sister,” Deborah said.
Storment says Ruth attended Roger's High School. Deborah said she dropped out before graduating.
“She was protective (of me,)” Deborah said.
Ruth had been divorced and was remarried at the time of her death to a man named Trampus D L Vaughn. Deborah had never met him. Investigators also believe Ruth gave birth to at least one baby roughly a year before she was killed.
Deborah said she thought of her sister over the years but felt she had no way to try to track her down.
“For the Spokane community, this has been a cold case, we look back with 39 years distance, for her sister....this just happened,” Storment said. “She's just now aware her sister died and that it happened in a very gruesome manner.”
Storment and Hamada honored Deborah’s request late last week. She no longer lives in the area.
"The family asked we put flowers here, at least to mark the spot,” he said.
That for now at least, is nameless. But all involved in the case hope there’s a way for the community to come together to give Ruth the grave marker she deserves.
“It would be a blessing if they did,” Deborah said.
"Just to kind of see, she's in an unmarked grave and has been unidentified for so long, it's kind of overwhelming,” Hamada said.
Like the investigation into finding whoever put Ruth here.
"The right person is out there, who knows, and I just need to speak with them,” Storment said.
Storment is asking anyone who even knew Ruth to call him. He said any background information at all could be extremely helpful in his investigation. You can connect with Storment via crime check at 509.456.2233.