Thursday, October 9th, 2008
By Shelley Grieshop
Old murder case re-opened
Officials seeking public's help
Officials are hoping new technology and public input will help them identify a murdered woman whose nude and decomposed body was found in a cornfield 38 years ago near Arcanum.
The Darke County Sheriff's Office today released an image of the victim from a clay mold facial reconstruction performed on the skull of "Jane Doe," who likely was strangled or asphyxiated nearly four decades ago, a coroner's report states.
This is the first time authorities have been able to put a face on the victim, whose visual identification was impossible in 1970 due to advanced decomposition. Detectives hope someone will recognize the woman - believed to be between 23 and 34 years old - as a missing person from long ago.
"We're asking for the public's help to identify her or the circumstances of the case," said Detective Sgt. Mark Whittaker of the sheriff's office.
On Oct. 11, 1970, two teenagers found the body on the east side of Frazers Road, south of Grubbs-Rex Road in Twin Township. A homemade silver ring with small studs was found on her finger; it was the only physical evidence at the scene, Whittaker said.
Recent tests now reveal the victim was white, between 5-foot, 3-inches and 5-foot, 7-inches tall, and approximately 150 pounds. She had medium-length dark brown hair, but was found with a red-haired wig longer than her natural hair. She may have suffered rib fractures and her estimated time of death was between Sept. 27 and Oct. 9 in 1970.
Because of the poor condition of the body when it was found, the coroner could not definitely determine the cause of death but ruled it a homicide.
Early in the case, several witnesses left random calls at the sheriff's office about a female matching the victim's description who was seen at businesses in the Dayton area. However, the leads were dead-ends, officials said.
The body was never identified and eventually buried in an unmarked grave in a Darke County Cemetery at the corner of state Route 49 and U.S. 127. Without any substantial leads, the case went cold, Whittaker said.
In June 2006, the sheriff's office teamed up with the coroner's and prosecutor's office to form the Darke County Cold Case Task Force. Two months later, the group was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Attorney General's Office to investigate the case. Their first goal is to identify the victim; the second is to solve the murder.
In October 2006, Jane Doe's body was exhumed from a vault and sent to various labs for forensic examination and processing. Her DNA, which was extracted at the University of Texas, does not match any in the national missing persons/unidentified persons database, Whittaker said.
Following two years of forensic testing, Jane Doe's body will be re-interred this afternoon at the Greenville cemetery. A brief memorial service is planned.
Anyone who recognizes the facial image or has any information on the case is asked to call the sheriff's office at 937-548-1193.
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Partly cloudy, scattered rain