I want to tell you of a project I’m working on; a murder from back when I was a high school sophomore buying Clearasil in bulk.
I'm writing about this case at great risk to my reputation as an honest (mostly) blogger who writes the truth (usually) about police work. You may, after reading this, cry “Bovine Scat,” and never read me again. However, because I need something to keep all 3 of my loyal fans entertained, I will proceed.
Last year I was going through some old homicide files when I came upon one that listed the victim as “Jane Doe.” It piqued my interest, so I pulled it out and looked it over.
1977; it is the summer of Saturday Night Fever and Star Wars. On the morning of July 25th, Officer W. was called to a dirt lot downtown; someone had found a decomposing body in the rear of a van there. The body was that of a young woman; she had been in the van for at least two weeks, and all that could be determined was that she had been strangled and likely raped. There was nothing to identify her except for a small tattoo on the inside of her right thigh.
The investigation began, and the problems started. The clothing that she did have on was taken to the roof of the police station to dry. A night janitor, following up on a complaint of bad smells in the building, found the clothing and threw them all away. At the autopsy, the fingers were removed and prints were taken; x-rays of the jaw were made for possible identification, and the skull was de-fleshed and saved. In the 27 years from that date, the finger print card has been misplaced, the jaw x-rays are gone, the fingers (which were saved in formaldehyde), are lost and I got no clue where the skull is. In 1988, a property room supervisor took all the other evidence we had and ordered it destroyed to free up space in the property room.
What a great case to work on! No evidence, no name, no suspect, not even a dental x-ray. Just a few faded photos of detectives in tight pants and lamb-chop sideburns. We did exhume the body (which by now was a few bones and soup) and got a section of femur to send in for a DNA profile.
The case was going nowhere until a couple of leads came in from some helpful detectives with the Felony Review Unit, formally known as The Green River Task Force. Hopefully I will soon report that we at least know the name of this girl.