SHADY COVE, Ore. — Forensic testing of remains found in the woods along Highway 227 have confirmed that they belonged to missing Shady Cove woman Malina Lynn Nickel, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators discovered the skeletal remains on November 12 near the border between Douglas and Jackson counties. Nickel had been reported missing on November 23 of 2016, almost three years earlier.
However, the discovery stemmed from a separate murder investigation. Just days before the discovery of Nickel's remains, investigators found the body of 20-year-old Destiny Finch. Her roommate, 21-year-old Shane Wayman, was charged with Finch's murder.
On November 20, the Sheriff's Office confirmed that Nickel was Wayman's aunt, and alleged that he had been involved in her disappearance three years earlier. The agency also revealed that it had found remains believed to be Nickel's along Highway 227.
Nickel's remains were taken to the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office and delivered to the care of Dr. Nici Vance, the state's forensic anthropologist.
In addition to charges related to Finch's murder, Wayman was charged with two counts of criminal mistreatment in the first degree and one count of abuse of a corpse in the second degree for his alleged involvement in Nickel's death and the disposal of her body. At the time, the Sheriff's Office said, the charges were based on circumstantial evidence found at the scene that "tentatively identified" the remains as belonging to Nickel.
"I'm standing by my Shane, I'm heartbroken on both behalfs," Chareen Nickel, Malina's mother, told NewsWatch 12 in November. Shane Wayman is her grandson. "I'm heartbroken for my daughter and I'm heartbroken for Shane."
"As a Christian it's our duty to forgive everyone, no matter what they did," Chareen continued. "It's not up to us to judge."
Earlier this week, Sheriff's Office detectives received the lab report from Oregon State Police for the skeletal remains that had been submitted for DNA analysis. According to the agency, the tests confirmed that the remains are Nickel's.
Nickel was 30 years old when she disappeared.
"I am happy that Malina's family has some closure," said Cristi Finch. Her daughter, Destiny, was the woman killed in November. "I can't imagine being in limbo for three years like they have been. My heart goes out to them and I will continue to pray for their comfort and healing."
This is a developing story and NewsWatch 12 will update the article with more details as they emerge.