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Being named at last

Monday brought the end of a long mystery, the name of the woman known for nearly four decades as the “Belle in the Well.”

Her name is Louise Virginia Peterson Flesher. She was born in Fairview, West Virginia and was last known to live somewhere near Las Vegas. She left there sometime in 1979-1981. She came to this area and had a locker at the Huntington, West Virginia bus depot. She was probably 65 when she died.

But so much will likely never be known.

Why did she come here since she seemingly didn’t have any relatives here? Who strangled her and then put her in a cistern in the middle of Windsor Township? Why didn’t anyone know she was here?

What we do know is that for years, Lawrence County Coroner’s Investigator Bill Nenni worked to give the Belle a name, even after he retired. It is unlikely that without the advancement in DNA technology, Flesher would never have been identified.

Forensic artists created two busts and a computer-generated photo of what she looked like but that yielded no results.

In 2011, “The Belle in the Well” case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons (NamUs) System and her body was exhumed. In 2017, the body was exhumed again and a molar was sent to a lab to have DNA extracted.

That DNA was put in a database and it took the DNADoe Project 14 months to narrow down familial matches to find someone who might be her child. A DNA swab from a Wyoming woman provided a match to prove that the Belle was Flesher.

While it is very unlikely her killer will ever be found and brought to justice because of lack of evidence, it is good that Flesher has been identified.

No one should ever go to the grave unknown.

We commend everyone involved in this case and their dogged determination to identify this woman before her name was lost forever.