Kern sheriff IDs Canyon Country woman as 2011 cold-case murder victim 

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The Kern County Sheriff’s Office identified a Canyon Country woman Friday as the victim of a gruesome 2011 murder — and her identity was discovered with help from a national database known as the DNA Doe Project. 

The headless body of Ada Beth Kaplan, 64, was found March 29, 2011, in a grape vineyard off Sebastian Road, just east of Wheeler Ridge Road, in Arvin, according to the news release from the KCSO, which also oversees the coroner’s office in Kern County. 

“In July 2020, the coroner made the decision to again seek a genealogy profile to help identify the cold case of Jane Doe 2011 with the assistance of the DNA Doe Project,” according to a KCSO statement. “The DNA Doe Project began building a family tree based on the genetic profile created.” 

The DNA Doe Project was founded in 2017 “with a simple humanitarian mission,” according to its website: to identify John and Jane Does using investigative genetic genealogy. 

The project has worked on more than 200 cases, but the details of Kaplan’s case were particularly gruesome, according to a report from KGET, a Bakersfield-based NBC affiliate that covered the discovery.  

Kaplan’s body was found decapitated, naked and posed on its back in a dirt roadway, leaving investigators struggling to determine the victim’s identity and even the cause of death. 

The latter has yet to be determined, according to the KCSO report, and ultimately, Kaplan was buried in a Kern County cemetery after detectives had no further clues to investigate, according to the KGET report. 

In 2023, the project used genealogy to determine two potential family members who lived on the East Coast and they agreed to provide a DNA sample for comparison, which resulted in a match. 

“Kern County Sheriff detectives followed up on the investigation and interviewed family members and it was learned that a missing person report was not filed on her,” according to the report, which did not explain further. “The location and suspect involved in her death remains unknown.” 

Arvin is a rural, agricultural community about 15 miles southeast of the city of Bakersfield with a population of about 19,000. 

Anyone having information on this incident can call the Kern County Sheriff’s Department at 661-861-3110 or Secret Witness at 661-322-4040. Anonymous “text” tips can be sent to TIP411 (847411). Just type the key word “KCSO” prior to the message. 

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