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DNA confirms torso found in Benicia as Woodland woman missing since 1979

“We are so glad to be able to bring a sort of closure to the Wulff family after decades of uncertainty,” Benicia Interim Chief of Police Mike Greene said.

YOLO COUNTY, Calif. — Investigators have finally identified the person whose torso washed up off the Benicia shoreline more than 40 years ago as missing Woodland resident Dolores Wulff.

DNA testing, when matched to one of the victim’s living children, confirmed the identity as Wulff, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office said.

Dolores Wulff, 45, went missing on July 31, 1979. Her husband was arrested as the prime suspect in the case at the time, but authorities dismissed the case against him due to a lack of evidence.

The case went cold for more than 40 years until an investigator with the Doe Network got in touch with the Solano County Sheriff’s Office in July 2020 to try and match the identity. That lead ultimately did not match.

At the same time, Benicia Police Detective Kenneth Hart was also investigating the “torso case.” Expanding his search, Hart turned his attention to all 1979 missing women cases from Sacramento to San Francisco. That search turned up 11 names, but Hart soon focused on Wulff. He eventually reached out to the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office to ask about getting a DNA swab from one of Wulff’s four living children.

With help from the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the yet-to-be-identified torso was exhumed for comparison with the DNA swab, and it was a match.

“We are so glad to be able to bring a sort of closure to the Wulff family after decades of uncertainty,” Benicia Interim Chief of Police Mike Greene said. “I am also proud of Sgt. Hart and his team’s tenacity on this case.”

Additionally, on October 20, the Benicia Police Department was informed by the California Department of Justice DNA lab that a femur bone from a partially recovered body was also a match for Wulff.

Authorities did not say if there were any additional arrests or suspects in this case. Wulff’s husband passed away in 2005, according to investigators.

Yolo County Sheriff Tom Lopez issued the following statement on this case:

“This case has haunted my office and, in fact, all of Yolo County since 1979. Countless hours were spent investigating Dolores Wulff’s disappearance. It is my hope that this provides some closure to the family who has suffered so much. I am grateful for the dedication and professionalism of our law enforcement community who made this identification possible, including the members of the Benicia Police Department for their incredible efforts.”

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