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Green River Killer victim identified, 32 years after death

Sandra Denise Major, who disappeared in 1982, a victim of the Green River Killer. Her remains were discovered in 1985, but were just identified through DNA analysis.

Thirty years after she went missing, Washington state authorities have positively identified the remains of a woman killed by the Green River Killer, one of the nation's most prolific killers.

The King County Sheriff's Office said Monday that remains found in Auburn, Wash. in 1985 belong to Sandra Denise Major.

The 20-year-old was reported missing on Dec. 24, 1982, and was last seen getting into a pickup in North Seattle.

Relatives in New York state had already assumed that she had died at the hands of Gary Ridgway, just like dozens of prostitutes who worked in the Seattle area in the early 1980s.

But it wasn't until April that Major's cousin called the King County Sheriff's Office after seeing a Lifetime channel movie about Ridgway, who was dubbed the Green River Killer because he dumped some of his victims in or along a river that runs through King County.

"They were still kind of in shock but prepared for the answer," Detective Tom Jensen, who joined the Green River task force in 1984, told KING 5 News. "I think there was just relief."

Jensen also remembers Ridgway leading investigators the site of Major's remains, along with two others. "One of the places he took us was to Mountain View Cemetery and he described how he had left these victims there," he told KING 5.

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Police in Rochester, N.Y., collected DNA samples from the Major's two brothers and sister, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children asked the University of Texas Center for Human Identification to speed up the testing, authorities said. Results showed that DNA of the remains matched the family's DNA.

Ridgway has admitted to killing Major and 48 others. He is serving a life sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Major’s family released a statement thanking detectives for their hard work, and saying they are "grateful to finally know what happened to Sandra after all these years."

KING 5's Meg Coyle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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