SACRAMENTO -- Kristene Feldhaus was trying to find a father she never knew by spending countless hours scrolling a web catalog of missing and unidentified people.
On Tuesday, for the first time in 30 years, Feldhaus and her father were reunited.
"It means a lot because I spent the last year really looking hard," Feldhaus said.
Feldhaus was met by a swarm of press as she left the Yolo County Coroner's Office Tuesday afternoon. She traveled from Iowa to collect a box. Inside were the remains of her father, a man she has not seen since she was 3 years old.
She first identified her father from pictures of his corpse on the NamUs website. She still was not sure but then the dental record matched up. Finally, it was all confirmed by DNA.
Janes Wray Miller fled Ames, Iowa under suspicion of bank robbery.
"The FBI said, 'Hey, we think he’s still very much alive. By the way, if you find him, please let us know,'" Feldhaus recalled.
He had been found, it turns out, in 1987, when he drowned trying to save three people who had plunged off Sacramento’s Tower Bridge in a truck.
He was dubbed the "Tower Bridge Hero" but nobody knew who he really was.
"Because my dad was also, in Ames’ eyes, a hoodlum, a bad person, a bank robber," Feldhaus said. "Those are huge things, horrible. But here he was a hero."
The string of events that threatened to keep Miller's identity lost forever is mind-boggling.
After his body was recovered from the Sacramento River, a con man claimed his ashes, saying they were the remains of his brother in an attempt to fake his brother's death. The one remaining blood sample from the body was lost and then found again when one lab bought out another.
But Feldhaus did not know any of that at the time.
For her, this is all a story of redemption.
"You know, it shows you that just because people screw up in life it does not mean they are always going to be a screw-up," Feldhaus said. "You can always change the person you are going to be. You don’t have to be the same person forever."
That’s why her father is traveling home to Iowa in an engraved golden box, courtesy of the coroner's office, commemorating that golden moment when Miller put aside his past and became the Tower Bridge Hero.