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10 Jane or John Doe Cases That Took over 45 Years to Identify

by Cleo Kleyn
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

When a person can’t be identified after death, they’re often called Jane Doe or John Doe. Unfortunately, identification can prove to be a difficult task sometimes and can take years. With the improvement of forensic science, it’s become possible to identify people who have been labeled as a Jane Doe or John Doe for decades.

This list looks at 10 Jane or John Doe cases that took decades to solve.

Related: 10 Bizarre Unsolved Mysteries Of The World

10 Woodlawn Jane Doe

‘Woodlawn Jane Doe’: Police identify Alexandria woman sexually assaulted, strangled to death 45 year

On September 12, 1976, the body of a young girl was discovered in the 5600 block of Dogwood Road near Lorraine Park Cemetery in Woodlawn, Maryland. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted, and chlorpromazine was in her system. Chlorpromazine is used to manage and treat some mental illnesses and can have a sedative effect. Authorities were unable to identify the victim at the time. She became known as the Woodlawn Jane Doe, unidentified for 45 years.

Testing done in June 2006 showed bodily fluids on an article of clothing, but it wasn’t enough to test for DNA. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released a facial reconstruction sketch of Woodlawn Jane Doe in 2016. In 2021, with help from Bode Technology, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children performed additional DNA testing. Finally, Woodlawn Jane Doe was identified as 16-year-old Margaret Fetterolf.

Fetterolf was reported missing by her family in 1975. The family lived in Alexandria, Virginia, at the time of Margaret’s disappearance. Fetterolf’s murder case is still unsolved and remains an open homicide investigation.[1]

9 Jane Doe No. 59

Jane Doe 59: The Story of Reet Jurvetson

On November 16, 1969, the body of a young woman was discovered in some vegetation off Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. She had multiple stab wounds, and authorities were unable to identify her. She became known as Jane Doe No. 59, unidentified for 46 years.

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, entered the case into its database in 2003. NamUs is the national database for all unidentified missing and deceased victims. In June 2015, a family friend of the victim was looking through the NamUs website. She saw a post-mortem photograph of Jane Doe, No. 59. She noticed the resemblance and notified the family. Jane Doe No. 59 was identified as 19-year-old Reet Silvia Jurvetson.

In 96, Jurvetson moved to Los Angeles from Montreal. She sent her family a postcard to tell them not to worry and that she was happy. When Jurvetson did not contact her family again, they assumed that she was making a new life for herself. The family never suspected foul play and never thought to report her missing. Jurvetson’s murder is still unsolved and remains an open homicide investigation.[2]

8 Chatham County John Doe

3 Unknown Victims Who Were Identified In 2022

In March 1976, the body of a young man was discovered in the Cape Fear River near Moncure, North Carolina. His head and hands were missing, and authorities believed his remains might have washed down from Haw River or Deep River. Unable to identify him, he became known as Chatham County John Doe for 46 years.

NamUs entered the case into its database in 2008. In 2020, sheriff’s office detective Ricky Culberson contacted the NC Unidentified Project and formed a partnership. In 2021, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and the NC Unidentified Project partnered with Othram Labs to develop a genealogical profile for Chatham County John Doe.

The sheriff’s office used the DNA profile to confirm his identity as Jimmy Mack Brooks. Brooks, an unmarried Army veteran, was 26 years old when he was murdered. Brooks’s murder case is still unsolved and remains an open homicide investigation.[3]

7 Mountain Jane Doe

The Dead Unknown Part 1 Mountain Jane Doe

In June 1969, the body of a young woman was discovered in the woods off a trail on Pine Mountain in Harlan, Kentucky. She was naked and had multiple stab wounds, and authorities were unable to identify her. She became known as the Mountain Jane Doe for 47 years.

Mountain Jane Doe’s description was entered into the NamUs database in 2009. That same year, a woman noticed the description matched her missing mother. The woman contacted NamUs, which put her in contact with the Kentucky State Police.

In 2014, NamUs worked with the Harlan County coroner to exhume Mountain Jane Doe’s grave. The grave was incorrectly marked, and the exhumed grave was that of a man. A year later, they exhumed the correct grave. The remains were sent to the University of North Texas, which partners with NamUs.

In September 2016, Mountain Jane Doe was identified as 21-year-old Sonja Blair Adams. Sonja’s murder case is still unsolved and remains an open homicide investigation.[4]

6 Singer Island Jane Doe

Detectives believe serial killer is responsible for murder of Broward teen in 70s

In June 1974, the skeletal remains of a young girl were found tied to a tree with wire in an area formerly known as “Burnt Bridges” in Palm Beach County. The authorities were unable to determine the cause of death or identify her. She became known as Singer Island Jane Doe for 48 years.

Investigators exhumed her remains in April 2014 for DNA testing. The DNA profile was entered into CODIS (the Combined DNA Index System) in 2015. In 2019, a facial reconstruction sketch of Singer Island Jane Doe was created by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office sent her remains to Othram Labs in December 2021. In March 2022, Othram Labs identified the Singer Island Jane Doe as 15-year-old Suzanne Gale Poole. Poole had been reported missing in December 1972 by her family.

Poole may have been the victim of serial killer Gerard Schaefer, who was convicted in 1973 of murdering two girls. Schaefer has been implicated in the deaths of more than a dozen others. In 1995, he was fatally stabbed by another inmate while serving time for the murder of two other girls.[5]

5 Coos County John Doe

Teen hitchhiker ID’d 50 years after body found in Coos Bay

In July 1971, a teenage boy’s body was discovered in the Englewood area of Snedden Creek in Coos Bay. Authorities couldn’t determine the cause of his death or identify him. He became known as the Coos County John Doe for 50 years.

In 2017, investigators exhumed Coos County John Doe’s remains for DNA testing. The sample was sent to Parabon Nanolabs and uploaded to the NamUs database. Parabon Nanolabs developed a DNA profile in May 2021. Two months later, the profile matched his DNA with a family member living in the Idaho area. Coos County authorities contacted the family.

Family members provided DNA samples for testing. The DNA matched and confirmed that Coos County John Doe was 15-year-old Winston Arthur Maxey III. Maxey ran away from his home in Boise the same year he died to pursue a better life. He intended to hitchhike along the Oregon Coast in search of work. Maxey fathered a child before leaving home, but he never knew.[6]

4 Jane Doe

Case Closed: Authorities Identify Victim, Suspect In 1968 Huntington Beach Rape, Murder

On March 14, 1968, the body of a young woman was discovered in a farm field in Huntington Beach. She had been beaten and sexually assaulted, and her throat was slit. Authorities were unable to identify her at the time. She became known as a Jane Doe, unidentified for 52 years.

Investigators tested evidence from the victim’s sexual assault kit in 2001 to create a DNA profile of the suspect. Blood tests from the victim’s clothing produced a partial DNA profile of the victim. The victim’s DNA profile was entered into CODIS, and her fingerprints were put into state and national databases but did not produce any results. In 2010, a cigarette butt found at the scene was analyzed and matched to the DNA profile from the assault kit.

In 2019, authorities used genetic genealogy techniques to find a possible family tree for the suspect. They could identify the suspect as Johnny Chrisco, who died in 2015 of cancer. In 2020, authorities used genetic genealogy to identify Jane Doe as 26-year-old Anita Louise Piteau. It’s unclear how Chrisco and Piteau knew each other.[7]

3 Unknown Boy

Identity of West Alabama ‘Unknown Boy’ finally answered

On March 27, 1961, a motorist named James White picked up a teenage boy hitchhiking along Highway 25. The boy told White his parents were divorcing, and he’d run away from home. Before White could get more information about the teenager, his car hit a guard rail and plunged into the Cahaba River. White survived the accident, but the teenage boy drowned. Authorities were unable to identify him. He became known as the Unknown Boy for 60 years.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children funded the exhumation of the unknown boy’s remains in 2016 and sent his remains to the University of North Texas laboratory for DNA testing. In October 2020, Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, president and founder of Identifinders International, joined the investigation.

In October 2021, the unknown boy was identified as 15-year-old Daniel Paul “Danny” Armantrout. Authorities tracked down Danny’s cousin, who lives in Germany, and his 77-year-old brother, who lives in Florida.[8]

2 Little Miss Nobody

‘Little Miss Nobody’ Remains Identified As 4-Year-Old Sharon Lee Gallegos

On July 31, 1960, the partially buried remains of a little girl were discovered in the Arizona desert. Authorities estimated that she was around seven years old. Unable to identify her, she became Little Miss Nobody for 62 years.

Investigators exhumed Little Miss Nobody’s remains in 2015 for DNA testing. In 2017, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office sent her remains to a lab in Texas for a facial reconstruction sketch. The image was released to the public in 2018. As the reconstruction sketch did not produce any results, the sheriff’s office raised money to send the DNA to Othram Labs in 2021. In 2022, using DNA from a family member, the lab positively identified Little Miss Nobody as four-year-old Sharon Lee Gallegos.

Gallegos was playing in an alley near her family home in Alamogordo with two other children when she was kidnapped on July 21, 1960. A dark green car with a man, woman, and two children inside offered to buy Gallegos candy and clothes if she got in the car, and when she refused, they dragged her inside and took off.

According to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the Alamogordo Police Department, who were searching for Gallegos, reached out upon learning of the remains found of a little girl, suspecting a connection. Unfortunately, forensic science was unsophisticated at the time, and law enforcement ruled out Gallegos as Little Miss Nobody. Gallegos’s kidnapping and murder are still unsolved and remain an open investigation.[9]

1 Babes in the Wood

How police identified the Babes in the Woods | Vancouver Sun

On January 15, 1953, a groundskeeper in Vancouver’s Stanley Park discovered the skeletal remains of two young children. Authorities estimated that the children had been lying undiscovered for about five years. They had been bludgeoned to death and were covered by what looked like a woman’s raincoat. Unable to identify the children, they became known as the Babes in the Wood for 70 years.

In 1996, the remains were tested for DNA for the first time. It did not offer any insights into their identities but confirmed that they were half-siblings who had the same mother. The DNA also proved both children were boys. Initially, it was believed one of the children was female.

A new DNA sample was taken from each of the boys in 2021, and investigators contacted Redgrave Research Forensic Services. Genealogists at Redgrave began building a family in January 2022. They could connect the boys’ DNA with that of their great-niece, who had acquired a DNA test and uploaded her profile to 23andMe.

After 70 years, the boys were identified as seven- and six-year-old Derek and David D’Alton, also known by the last name Bousquet. Derek and David were never reported missing. According to police officials, the murderer is believed to be a close relative of the boys who died about 25 years ago. The suspect’s name has not been made public by police officials.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen