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Thread: Unidentified Female, Located 1979 Watts Township, PA

  1. #31

    Default Re: Unidentified Female, Located 1979 Watts Township, PA

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  2. #32

    Default Re: Unidentified Female, Located 1979 Watts Township, PA

    Midstate Mysteries: Smithsonian testing reveals new leads in ’79 cold case

    In the summer of 1979, a young woman’s skeletal remains were found along the side of the Juniata River near Newport.

    Police hoped her clothing and unique turquoise jewelry would help them to quickly identify her, but 36 years later they are no closer to answers. They still don’t know who she was, where she came from, or who left her on the side of the riverbank.

    But now, thanks to Dr. Christine France of the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute in Suitland, Maryland, there are new leads in this long-time cold case.

    Dr. France tested a bone, tooth and hair samples from the girl with the turquoise jewelry. She was looking at hydrogen and oxygen isotopes, because those isotopes are unique to different geographical regions.

    “You are what you eat,” Dr. France said. “So anything you eat or drink is going to have a distinct chemical signature and that gets incorporated into your bones and your hair and your teeth and your skin and every part of your body basically.”

    Different parts of the body can tell scientists different things about the person. For example, the teeth tells them where the person spent their adolescence. The hair tells them where they were most recently. And the bone gives them a snapshot of about the past 15 years.

    In this case, Dr. France determined, based on her hair, the girl may have visited the Southwest in the months prior to her death. That matches a theory investigators had already formed, based on her Indian-style jewelry.

    “That was very rewarding to see maybe my data may actually confirm what they know and give them impetus to look in that area a little more strongly,” Dr. France said.

    And what’s more; based on her teeth, Dr. France believes the girl grew up in the Great Lakes region or possibly in southern Canada. Based on that information, new fliers were sent to Canadian authorities.

    “We’ve had a tough time identifying her so there was always the thought in the back of my mind that maybe she was a foreigner,” said Trooper Donald Chewning, who is leading the suspicious death investigation for the Pa. State Police. “We’ve had a couple calls, however the two missing women from that time period from Canada, I’ve already eliminated them, either by dental or DNA.”

    But Chewning said at this point he is grateful for any leads. He’s also grateful to Dr. France for doing the tests at no cost to the Pa. State Police.

    “We just need one piece of the puzzle to find out who she is,” Chewning said. “And we may never find out how she came to that area, but at least we’ll know who she is.”

    Dr. France said it’s rewarding, to take technology often used in archaeology and paleontology, and apply it to modern forensics.

    “I am a parent and when I think about missing children, that hits home,” Dr. France said. “I definitely think about who these people might have been and I would like to help them get home if I can.”

    But for now, the girl with the turquoise jewelry remains in the Perry County morgue; unidentified, unclaimed, but not uncared for.

    Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Perry County Crimestoppers at 1-866-210-8477 or Trooper Donald Chewning at 717-567-3110.


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