Clark County Sheriff’s Office cold case Detective Lindsay Schultz keeps a small portrait photo of a blonde-haired young woman on her desk upstairs at the office at 900 W. 13th St. in Vancouver.
It’s not a niece or nephew or her own child or other relative offering a modest smile to the cameraman, though.
It’s that of Kimberly Kay Kersey.
Many, if not most, longtime Vancouverites already know the story of 18-year-old Kersey’s mysterious and tragic disappearance in 1987, when she was walking home from Mountain View High School on a path that weaved through then-undeveloped land toward what is now LeRoy Haggen Memorial Community Park.
Her parents were divorced; her father lived near the school, which sits between Southeast Blairmont Drive and Southeast 147th Avenue, and her mother lived a 30- to 45-minute walk northwest.
Indicating that someone may have abruptly abducted her, Kersey left behind only some scattered books on a now-nonexistent trail, where Schultz says the business U.S. Digital — a manufacturing center for various items including optical and magnetic encoders — now sits. No body has been found.
You Can Help
• Detective Lindsay Schultz said that investigators are always “one tip away” from solving a cold case. If you have information, contact her at email@example.com or 360-397-2028.
In the early years of the disappearance, black-and-white missing posters were pinned up around the community, encouraging a call to the 1-800-782-SEEK hotline (a still-active hotline for the Crimes Against Children Research Center) and a reward of $1,000.
Schultz saw these signs posted around town when she was a child in Vancouver, igniting a passion within her that put her on an unwavering path to becoming a detective in the county where she grew up. Her locality is something she’s proud of.
“Especially in cold cases, I see how those roads have changed, how locations have changed. I remember businesses, what they used to be; ones that are torn down and remodeled,” Schultz said in an interview. “Time and time again, I come across something, and had I not lived here, I wouldn’t understand these cases.”
Schultz is one of only three detectives in the major crimes unit. They deal with the particularly traumatic and grisly crimes, including serious assaults, sexual assaults, suspicious deaths and homicides. Cold cases are only something she works on some of the time, since there’s no longer a unit devoted solely to that.
“I still do major casework, which are new homicides, certain felonies and local crimes. That’s my No. 1 priority,” she said. “Then it’s collateral duty for me to work the cold cases. So I’m not full-time assigned to cold cases, but anything cold-case related generally comes to me for processing, oversight documentation and just the management of all cold cases.”
Staffing is too low to appoint someone to manage a cold case unit — something the office had already attempted a few years ago — but that’s her dream job.
Joe Swenson is also a detective in the major crimes unit whose specialty assignment is as a crime scene or evidence technician. He and Schultz have worked together for the last four or five years, he said.
Swenson said that there are people who might get killed because they intertwine themselves into “drug culture” or “in gangs,” and that on the flipside, there are “true victims” who are “completely innocent.”
“She has a very strong passion for these. You have these girls from the ’70s who were killed minding their own business. And you have a true victim. … That’s really where I think her passion comes in, because these girls deserve justice,” Swenson said.
Schultz said she essentially raised herself from age 16. She went through the police force Explorers program for children ages 15 to 21, then the cadet program. She attended Washington State University and studied human development with a focus on criminology. Finally, before becoming a patrol deputy for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, she went through the Basic Law Enforcement Academy in Burien — where all officers in the state are required to train.
She joined Clark County’s Major Crimes Unit, moving up from patrol, in 2008. She took a few years off of major crimes to go back to patrol, but then returned in 2017.
Some people choose to leave their hometowns, but that was never a plan on Schultz’s radar. She knows the roads like the back of her hand. She knows businesses that have come and gone, bridges and buildings built up and torn down. She can walk into Evergreen Memorial Gardens’ funeral parlor and talk intimately with employees who she went to school with.
That’s the cemetery where Kersey’s mother, Andrea Kay Botsford, is buried. Botsford died from cancer in 1996 with no resolution about what happened to her daughter.
She’s only a few grave plots away from a yet another of Schultz’s cases, that of Tatyana Tupikova, a 22-year-old woman killed in a hit-and-run incident in Battle Ground in 2012.
Another cold case of Schultz’s is that of Catherine Grace Dawes, a 27-year-old night clerk murdered at a former Minit Mart Quickshop at 10409 S.E. Mill Plain Road in 1982. She was shot in the head; her body was found in a storage room.
There’s also the case of the unidentified female whose remains were found in Yacolt near Fly Creek. In her midteens, she also was shot in the head.
Schultz is hoping new technology, like open-source genealogy websites, which were used to catch the alleged Golden State Killer earlier this year, will help investigators get on track to discover killers in these old cases.
“What’s so fascinating is that the technology is here. We’ve finally reached the age where 20 years ago or even 30 years ago, it seemed so far-fetched,” Schultz said. “Now we just have to find the funding for it.”
Schultz discusses her cases in a way that carefully balances firmness and compassion — the very skills needed to thrive in such a job where one’s brain is consistently exposed to gruesome and awful scenarios.
She credits her faith as being a reason she’s able to push through in such a collected manner. She recalled a particular moment of clarity when she was on her way home from a hospital one evening, stopped at a stoplight near her church.
“I was sitting there, and I was like, everybody calls us. Everybody calls us for their problems. They come to us and expect us (to know) what to do. I remember sitting there and looking forever at the church and the sign and I thought, ‘I’m so glad for that,’ because that’s where I transfer all my problems,” Schultz said.
“But there are times when you see evil, like when you look at very innocent people even on a DUI collision. I’ve been out on those scenes where I’m looking at a very intoxicated person who just killed people. For me these are always harder than some of my homicide investigations because they’re so preventable.”