Guest Post by Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson, Grundy County Coroner's Office
SENECA, IL-Grundy County Coroner John W. Callahan is releasing details regarding an update in the death investigation of a cold case of an unidentified female homicide victim.
The body was found on October 2, 1976, in a farm field in Erienna Township, Unincorporated Seneca, IL.
The victim was an African-American female, estimated to be between the ages of 18-23, with black afro-type hair and brown eyes. The female stood at approximately 5’7” and weighed approximately 150 lbs, with a scar on her right hip/lower right abdomen, which could be a birthmark. Jane Doe was accompanied by a multi-colored red, white and black cardigan-type knit sweater.
Investigators from the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department and Illinois State Police, in conjunction with the Coroner, worked the case for a period of time. After several weeks of not being able to make any identification, the body was buried under the authority of the-then Grundy County Coroner. Not only were there no identification leads, but the case was made even more difficult due to the fact that the death was ruled a Homicide from a gunshot wound to the head.
Callahan and his team have been continuing to work the reopened case for about the last year and a half. “We have received a good amount of tips from the public since reopening the case. Two particular tips were from loved ones missing their family member for forty-two to fifty-five years. DNA was compared to the tipsters’ DNA and unfortunately there was no match to our unidentified female. However, by them reaching out and contacting us, we have now encouraged both families to finally report their relatives as missing persons and submit DNA, which may help another case in the future,” stated Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson, who has helped lead the reopened investigation.
In the ever changing times, technology and modern-day forensic science techniques have naturally changed for the better. On Tuesday, December 18, 2018, the team was on hand at the Braceville-Gardner Cemetery in Braceville, IL, to exhume the remains of the unidentified victim. Using said techniques and new ideas, the office moves forward with the investigation.
“We reached a corner with the initial DNA obtained from the victim’s sweater and felt that we stood a better chance of identifying this female by exhuming her and sending bones to UNTCHI (The University of North Texas Human Center for Identification) in Fort Worth, Texas. The lab specializes in mitochondrial DNA, something more enhanced. We also look forward to using genealogy in the near future.” Johnson stated.
The office has worked with the Illinois State Police Crime Lab, NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), The DOE Network, The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children and various forensic artists, who helped create images of how the female may have appeared in 1976. The office also created a Facebook page for the case, which has reached people nationwide, helping to get the word and sketch out in other states. The page could be found at www.facebook.com/grundycountycoldcase
Anyone with any information that may help lead to the identification of this female is asked to contact:
Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson