Authorities follow leads in 30-year-old murder case

Published 11:11 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office is following up on a few leads that have come in about the identity of a woman who was killed 30 years ago.

“We have had several tips about some of the things that were heard about 30 years ago,” Sheriff Jeff Lawless said. “We are following up on a few leads. Nothing concrete. A few phone calls we are checking.”

A week ago the county coroner’s office exhumed the remains of a Jane Doe, buried in an unmarked grave off Homeless Road. The body was found in 1981 by children playing in an isolated area near Dobbstown who saw something floating in a well. The body was recovered and found to be so decomposed an initial examination couldn’t determine the gender.

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Later it was determined the body was of a woman who had apparently been manually strangled with the body weighted down with a concrete block. The body could have been in the cistern as long as October 1979.

After the exhumation the body was taken to the office of Mark Hammond, Boyd County coroner where it was examined by Dr. Elizabeth A. Murray, a professor of biology at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati and a board-certified forensic anthropologist.

The purpose of the exam was to extract DNA, map it and then put it into the National Unidentified Persons Data System (NamUs). Information already known about Jane Doe was recently put into the NamUs databank, including possible age, location of body found, clothing and possible dates for the murder. That eliminated 13 decedents as possible identities.

Dental records were also compiled and after the DNA exam, the body was taken to a local hospital where it was X-rayed.

“Jane Doe had extensive dental work done over her lifetime and we believe there exists charts that could identify her somewhere,” according to a release from Deputy Coroner Bill Nenni. “Dr. (Ralph) Beadle found that Jane Doe had a very pronounced overbite, a condition also known as ‘buck teeth.’ Beadle believes that even a casual acquaintance of hers would notice the way her upper teeth would protrude over her lower lip.”

Beadle intends to submit an article to the American Dental Association with her dental records.

The exam has determined that the body is of a white female between the ages of 30 and 60 weighing 120 to 150 pounds and was between 5-foot-3 and 5-foot-5.

“The dental records and X rays will be added into NamUs,” Lawless said. “We will continue to compile as much information.”

One lead comes from law enforcement in a town outside of Charleston, W.Va.

“There was a missing lady in West Virginia during that time frame,” Lawless said. “When we get the DNA, they want to compare it to what they have.”

Getting that could take up to two months, the sheriff said.

The body was re-interred at the same location on Friday by staff of the county coroner’s office.

“There was some talk that maybe somebody would donate a stone to mark the plot, but we haven’t heard,” Lawless said.

Anyone with any information may contact the sheriff at (740) 532-3525 or the coroner’s office at (740) 532-3309.