Body in river identified as St. Paul woman

Jim Martyka

Investigators from the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office on Wednesday identified the body of a woman found dead in the Mississippi River near the East Bank campus earlier this week.
Through fingerprint identification, examiners determined the woman was Elaine Joyce McKinley, 35, of St. Paul. But officials are still unable to determine the cause of her death.
McKinley, who did not attend or work for the University, had been missing since Feb. 17, when she was last seen at the Woodshed Bar in St. Paul.
Sgt. Lee Alexander said the case was not investigated earlier because there had been no evidence to suggest foul play. “She just disappeared without a trace,” he said.
The St. Paul Police Department treated the disappearance as a missing person case. Department officials don’t usually investigate missing persons unless foul play is suspected.
But members of McKinley’s family said they suspected something happened to her and that the police weren’t taking the case seriously.
The woman’s niece, Sandra McKinley, told the Star Tribune she suspected her aunt had probably been picked up at the bar or followed home.
Sandra McKinley and other family members have searched for McKinley for the past three months, handing out fliers with her picture and talking to people around the bar.
The body was discovered by someone who was walking across the Washington Avenue Bridge. The person anonymously tipped off police. After an autopsy, examiners were unable to determine how McKinley died.
But investigators from the medical examiner’s office said they are still looking for a cause.
Minneapolis police have taken over the investigation because the body was found in their district.
Police Spokeswoman Penny Parish said Minneapolis police are just starting to gather information on the investigation. “We are starting to touch base with St. Paul police so we can both work together in finding out what happened,” she said.
McKinley was a secretary for a temporary-employment agency in St. Paul.