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Thread: ID of body found remains mystery

  1. #1

    ice ID of body found remains mystery,5560451.story

    OTTAWA, Ill.—
    The remains of a woman lie at Oakwood Memorial Park in Ottawa, specifically in the area known as the Garden of the Hymns. Her gravestone reads, "SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER, SOMEBODY'S FRIEND."

    It also reads, "JANE DOE."

    "This case has stuck with me all these years. It's tremendously sad that someone died and no one who knew or loved her knows what happened to her," said La Salle County Coroner Jody Bernard.

    On Friday afternoon, Sept. 13, 1991, a farmer found the remains lying face-up on a curtain in a field he was harvesting. The body was in the southwest corner of the field along a gravel road, one mile south of U.S. 52 and about three miles east of Norway.

    The body was that of a white woman, wearing a white men's-style dress shirt with vertical light stripes and black, Spandex pants. There were no shoes or personal effects.

    Above her left breast was a tattoo of a blue cross with a superimposed red flower. On her lower right abdomen was a tattoo of a star-shaped red flower and a yellow-and-red flower on a stem with green leaves.

    She had been right-handed, had breast implants and might have had a hysterectomy, but had never given birth or suffered a broken bone. The woman was about 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighed about 120 pounds. Her age? Between 40 and 50. She had been dead about three weeks, during a particularly warm period.

    The woman had not been shot, stabbed or strangled, but her system did contain three times the amount of cocaine necessary to cause death.

    Despite the likelihood of an overdose, the pathologist could not rule out other causes.

    Most importantly, the woman had extensive and unusual dental work. There were also signs she had had orthodontic braces.

    "You almost never see a crown like that," said Dr. William Vesely, an Ottawa dentist who participated in the effort to identify the woman 20 years ago.

    Vesely submitted an article on the case to the Illinois Dental Journal, which published it in its September/October 1993 issue. Vesely was hoping the dentist who did the work would recognize it and come forward with the woman's name. It never happened.

    Vesely said the lack of response led him to suspect the dental work was performed outside Illinois.

    "It was one of the first cases I did. Every other one has been identified. You feel sorry for the people, but especially this one," Vesely observed. "She could have run away from home as a teenager. Sometimes no one is looking for some people, unfortunately."

    Vesely added the woman's breast implants were not numbered. Sadly for the investigation, implants began to be identified with numbers shortly after the woman was found.

    Bernard said effort was made to track down the manufacturer, but it was a blind alley.

    Bernard said she recently spoke with a sheriff's office detective about the case and they are looking into whether, given scientific advances in the past two decades, anything can be done with the evidence. Bernard also said the woman's information is regularly put through missing persons data bases and is also kept posted on the county coroner's website.

    Back in 1991, the Brooke family, which owned Oakwood Memorial Park, donated a plot and vault; then-La Salle County Coroner Marion Osborne, who was also a funeral director, donated the coffin. The remains were kept at the DeKalb County morgue until burial services were held in December 1991 at the cemetery.

    Pallbearers were six deputy coroners. The then-Rev. Robert Creager, of St. Patrick's Church and Pastor Tom Harmon, of Epworth United Methodist Church, both in Ottawa, officiated. Bernard, who was then a deputy coroner, came up with the inscription on the marker.

    At the time Jane Doe was laid to rest, cemetery owner Jim Brooke voiced sympathy for the unknown woman.

    "It just grabs at my heart that no one seems to know her."


  2. #2

    Default Re: ID of body found remains mystery

    25 years later, La Salle County Jane Doe's ID remains a mystery

    When a woman’s body was found in a field east of Norway on a steamy September day 25 years ago, it was unapparent that a mystery spanning decades was about to begin.

    But investigators still are trying to match an identity to the woman,who was in her mid-30s or 40s and found Sept. 13, 1991, in Mission Township.

    “As the days go by, each day is not as good as the day before, but we’re still trying,” said William Wujek, La Salle County coroner. “There’s still hope.”

    This includes regularly checking missing-persons databases for possible matches, but so far it’s been fruitless.

    La Salle County sheriff Tom Templeton remembers the day La Salle County’s Jane Doe was found.

    “It was a really, really hot day, and I can remember waiting on the crime scene,” Templeton said. “She had been there about three weeks, and it wasn’t a surprise being out in the field, as hot as it’d been going from August to September, she had skeletonized as much as she was.”

    An overdose was considered the likely cause of death at the time, but a pathologist could not rule out other possibilities.

    Despite decomposition and a lack of ID, authorities found several distinguishing characteristics that seemed promising for efforts to identify the body. These identifiers included extensive dental work, breast implants and two distinct tattoos — a pink rose drawn over a blue cross above the left breast and pink and orange flowers on her lower right abdomen.

    “We thought that would be helpful,” Templeton said. “We thought, especially with the implants, we’d be able to find out who she was.”

    But ultimately, each approach led to a dead end.

    Wujek said records of dental work from that time period may never have been digitized, and serial numbers on the breast implants could not be traced.

    “None of that has helped us any,” Wujek said.

    So far, technological advances have been no help either.

    Within the past two years, Wujek said DNA from Jane Doe has been entered into a database.

    The unidentified body has also been added to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, and her face has been reconstructed using both clay and computers.

    “There were no hits on that,” he said. “You have to remember we’re dealing with 1991. It’s hard to look at things back then because there wasn’t even DNA in 1991.”

    Templeton and Wujek said DNA is unlikely to help them to retroactively identify the body, but it does help confirm or refute possible matches.

    “A woman from Iowa did call,” Wujek said. “But the DNA wasn’t even close. People are always looking for closure.”

    Both Wujek and Templeton said they’d like to see the body identified.

    “It’s always lingering,” Templeton said. “We’d love to give her back to her family. She’s somebody’s daughter. She’s buried properly, but it’s a Jane Doe tombstone. We’d love to give her her name back.”

    To share any information regarding Jane Doe, please contact the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office (815) 433-2161 or the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office (815) 434-8268.

    Ben Hohenstatt
    NewsTribune Reporter

  3. #3

    Default Re: ID of body found remains mystery

    What’s her name? Lab simulates class photo to crack ’91 Jane Doe case

    They found her in a Mission Township field in 1991. She was in her 30s or 40s but had no identification. The fingerprints came back negative. La Salle County dubbed her “Jane Doe” and arranged for burial.

    The case has nagged the coroner’s and sheriff’s offices ever since.

    Last year, coroner Bill Wujek dialed crime labs in Washington. Science, he knew, had changed much since they found the woman before Clinton was president. Maybe there was a lab that could churn out some new information — something to help show where this woman had come from.

    “I knew there had to be advances since 1991,” Wujek said. “At that time, DNA testing was not even available.”

    There was indeed a lab both interested and willing to try some new DNA testing — and nothing you’ve seen on TV.

    Sure, traditional DNA testing had been tried before in the Jane Doe case. La Salle County authorities had harvested Jane’s DNA and sent it to the National Crime Information Center and to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Neither could come up with a match.

    Then Wujek heard about carbon isotope science, a forensic technique developed by the Smithsonian Institute. Carbon isotopes let technicians study bone marrow and teeth for deep-rooted clues about where people had lived.

    “We felt it would help us develop another profile to use in the search of Jane Doe’s identity,” Wujek said.

    Wujek’s office gave their samples to the Smithsonian. The reports that came in the mail were detailed and impressive.

    He still doesn’t know who Jane Doe is, but he thinks now there’s a better than even chance he’ll learn who she is — or was.

    You heard it said at the dinner table and in the classroom: You are what you eat.

    It’s more accurate than you knew. If they bring Jane home, it’ll be because of her diet — and not the contents of her stomach.

    Smithsonian had told Wujek they might be able to tell whether Jane had grown up eating shellfish off the New England coast, wheat from the Great Plains or corn from the Heartland. They can tell this from the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen isotopes in her bone marrow. The body is filled with isotopes from the food we eat and water we drink. Some stay with us for life.

    Sheriff Tom Templeton was present at the 1991 scene when Jane was found east of Norway. He’s as eager as anyone to see the case put the rest. He fully expected the lab to disclose techniques not available in 1991, but the ability to identify a decedent’s staple foods took him by surprise.

    “It’s been fascinating what we’ve been told in the past year,” Templeton said. “This whole thing has been a learning experience and things have changed drastically over the years.”

    Armed with the isotope data — and you’d need a Ph.D. to understand the summary — the lab cranked out a map showing regions where Jane could have lived. The map is anything but pinpoint accurate.

    Jane didn’t grow up in the Deep South or Southwest — the lab was pretty sure about that — but they could only narrow her home turf to four regions: The Upper Midwest and northern Appalachians seemed most likely, but they couldn’t rule out Alaska or British Columbia in Canada.

    Luckily for Wujek, there was information available from Jane’s teeth. As with bone marrow, the enamel in your wisdom teeth contains the telltale isotopes from your food and drinking water, only with a bit more precision.

    Once your baby teeth are gone and your wisdom teeth come in, those freshly-cut molars collect isotopes from your food and water, but only for a few years. The isotopes nestled in Jane’s wisdom teeth would show what she’d been eating in middle school, as the teeth stop collecting the telltale isotopes after about 14 years of age.

    The tooth results came back and affirmed that Jane is most likely not a southern girl. It looks as if she didn’t grow up in Alaska either. The teeth data affirm the suspicion Jane grew up in the Great Lakes, Pacific Northwest or maybe southeast Canada.

    Then there was her tattoo. The illustration includes a five-petal flower, most likely a columbine. That’s a flower found in the sprawling region where the lab thinks she grew up, further confirming the food and water isotopes found in her tooth.

    It still leaves a lot of ground to cover. The lab couldn’t narrow Jane’s home turf to a single region, much less a ZIP code.

    But it’s a promising start.

    “Our previous searches were wide overall searches,” Wujek said. “Now we are putting extra emphasis searching several specific areas based on new information.

    The FBI produced something else about Jane: A mockup of what she probably looked like as a girl.

    The FBI lab contacted the people who render “progression photos” — the ones that show what little Johnny, missing for 30 years, probably looks like in middle age. Here, the computer people put the gears in reverse and produced a “regression photo” showing what Jane probably looked like when she cut her wisdom teeth.

    Templeton was floored when he saw the regression photo. He’s presided over countless missing persons reports and had seen more than a few fast-forward renderings. But a time-travel photo to middle school? This was a first.

    “It’s pretty incredible to think somebody could remember her from her grade school days or her high school days,” he said.

    Cumulatively, there are enough clues about Jane’s identity to give investigators hope of learning who she is.

    “I’m cautiously optimistic we can come up with the identity of the Jane Doe based on the new developments,” Templeton said.

    For now, Wujek is pinning his hopes to the regression photo. He wants the photo sent all over the upper Midwest and New England. He hopes somebody will recognize their daughter, cousin or former student and be able to give him a name.

    “We will welcome any information to help us solve this 26-year-old case,” Wujek said. “Many agencies have worked with us and spent countless hours trying to solve this case. We will cherish the day that we can finally say that we brought closure to a family that has been missing their loved one for so many years.”

    left breast area

    lower abdomen

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