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April 04, 2023
Details of murder and sexual abuse to follow. Reader discretion is advised.
On June 20, 1984, the decapitated body of a woman was discovered in the Spokane River, below the Spokane Falls Community College in Washington.
At around 3:30pm on the afternoon of June 20, 1984, the body was spotted floating in the water by two fishermen on the west side of the river. The men contacted the authorities, and a local fire department boat crew were dispatched to the scene where they recovered the decapitated remains.
Upon closer inspection, it was clear that the head, hands, and feet had been severed from the body, likely in an attempt to make the identification of the victim more difficult. The head, hands and feet had been removed with a sharp edged object, likely an axe or hatchet.
Police quickly determined that they were dealing with a homicide.
It was unclear how long exactly the woman’s body had been in the water, due to the cold temperatures slowing decomposition, but it was estimated by police and published in newspaper reports that it may have been there for a couple of days at the point it was discovered. Later, this estimate was amended, and Spokane County Medical Examiner Sally Aiken, determined that the body could have been in the river from several days to several weeks.
With no fingerprints or dentals available, the forensic pathologist on the case, Dr. Don Reay of the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, who was to perform the autopsy, aimed to instead locate any previous surgeries and injuries to help identify the slain woman. These injuries would be compared to descriptions of known missing women, however, the body did not match any of the descriptions.
The victim was white, blond and female, estimated to stand at around 5”7 and weigh roughly 130lbs.
Initially she was estimated to be in the age range of 30 – 40, but this was later changed to 25 – 35.
She did have some distinguishing features in the form of several scars on her body, one on each knee and one on her left arm, as well as moles on her neck and a gap between her front teeth.
Autopsy revealed that the victim had been sexually assaulted with a blunt object and there was evidence of tape around one of her arms. She had given birth at least one time in her life and it is believed that she may have given birth a year or two before she was assaulted and murdered.
Although one woman had been found dead in a nearby area around the same time, the two cases were not linked as the modus operandi was dissimilar.
As for whom had possibly killed the woman, police had their theories. Due to the effort made to prevent the victim from being identified by removing parts of the body that would hinder finger printing, checking dental records and identifying the woman via circulation of a composite sketch of her face, investigators believed she may have been murdered by someone she knew.
The victim’s head, hands and feet would not be recovered from the scene, however, 14 years later, a human skull was found by a woman walking her dog in the Spokane area.
The woman was reportedly walking her dog across an empty lot near Seventh and Sherman street, when she spotted what appeared to be a human skull. She called the discovery into police who recovered the skull, along with several additional bones that were determined to be the remains of another. Due to the confusion, and the fact that the skull was found near an abandoned church with a possible cemetery, it would take a while before the skull was properly examined as part of the 1984 victim’s case.
A reconstruction of the skull was not produced until Spring of 2000, when it was confirmed as belonging to the decapitated river victim found in 1984 after the vertebrae were found to match those connected to the spine of the torso.
DNA officially confirmed that the skull and the torso were one.
Various attempts to identify the Jane Doe were made over the years. Her DNA profile was uploaded into various databases in the US and Canada and a new composite sketch was produced in the hope that someone might recognize the unnamed victim. It wasn't until September 2021, when the Doe's DNA was sent to Ofram for sequencing that the Spokane Victim finally got her name back- Ruth Belle Waymire. The victim's estranged younger sister, who had been living in Oklahoma and did not know her sister had been missing, provided a DNA sample to compare against the victims.
Little is known of Ruth Waymire, but records show she graduated from Rogers High School and thereafter was said to have moved around a lot. She lost her mother early in life and didn’t stay in contact with her sibling and although she was married at the time she went missing, her husband, Trampas D.L. Vaughn, neglected to report her missing to police. Vaughn was Ruth’s second husband and it is reported that he was incarcerated in Iowa before he relocated to Washington where he married Ruth.
Ruth Waymire’s first husband has been cooperating with police, however, Trampas D.L. Vaugh, who died in 2017, did not. He remains a suspect in her murder for this reason, as well as the fact that he neglected to report her missing in 1984. There is also they question of where Waymire’s child is, as autopsy revealed that she had been pregnant at least once and may have given birth within a year of her murder.
Anyone with information on the case is urged to contact Crime Check (Spokane's crime reporting agency) at 509-456-2233.