San Mateo trans cold case gets renewed attention after 35 years
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A San Mateo 1983 cold case involving the murder of an unidentified possible trans woman has garnered renewed attention thanks to a Trans Doe Task Force at the DNA Doe Project.
On November 26, 1983, the remains of a man, age 19 to 25, dressed in female casual attire was found near Lower Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco. Because the identity of the victim is unknown, the Bay Area Reporter will use they/them pronouns to refer to them.
The victim, who was found within hours of their death, was reportedly stabbed, strangled, and had their wrists slit, according to Anthony Redgrave, DNA Doe Project team lead for the cold case. The nonprofit, all-volunteer organization uses genetic genealogy to identify unknown victims of homicides.
Last year, it introduced the Trans Doe Task Force, which focuses on trans and gender-nonconforming victims. It has released a new forensic image of the San Mateo victim, derived from their post-mortem pictures, and given them the name "Pillar Point Doe."
"It's a classic overkill of a trans person," Redgrave told the B.A.R. Friday. "We don't have any information on how the victim identifies, but are assuming they must have been a trans person based on the way they were dressed, modest clothing, but still tucking. They were wearing Capri pants, not dressed up for clubbing. We are assuming, but we can't know anything for certain until we know who they are."
The task force brought the case to the attention of the San Mateo County Sheriff's and coroner's offices, which it has partnered with since January on the case, along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. In the most recent San Mateo County newsletter circulated Thursday, March 22, it mentions the cold case and links to a post on San Mateo County's Facebook page.
"The San Mateo County Coroner's Office is hoping for a successful outcome with finally identifying and providing a name for this 35-year cold case homicide victim," read the March 20 post that said the image of the victim was produced by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children as requested by the coroner's office (the B.A.R. featured that image in a front page August 8, 2002 story that had also sought the public's help in identifying the victim).
The social media post also claims that the victim "may have been transported to the location from the Tenderloin area of San Francisco." Redgrave said, however, that the detective working on the case has said there is no evidence to corroborate this.
According to the coroner's office website, the victim was a Caucasian male with short, brown hair and approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall and 140 pounds. The clothing they were wearing included light, yellow knee-length "clam diggers," a light yellow jacket, a multicolored turtleneck T-shirt, black nylon net stockings, brown-colored pantyhose, blue, bikini-style underpants, beige-colored lace underpants, and a beige-colored bra and sponge "falsies." They were also wearing jewelry that included two white metal rings and a white metal necklace with a crucifix pendant.
Redgrave said there was a lot of trans-related violence during the 1980s and early 1990s and that the task force has a list of about 40 trans does from across the country that it is working to identify.
"As far as the investigation it seemed like it was treated as well as it could have been at the time, due largely to the coroner in the area having a very high interest in doe cases," Redgrave said. "It seemed to have been given more adequate care than I have seen in other places."
He also said that the San Mateo Sheriff's Office is "doing a really good job."
The San Mateo Coroner's and Sheriff's offices and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children could not be reached for comment before this article was posted.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the coroner's office at (650) 312-5562.
To view the 2002 B.A.R. article about the missing person, visit https://archive.org/details/BAR_20020808.