Guest Post by Mark Broomell
This is probably the worst-case scenario in a cold case: to identify an individual who is now 23 years deceased with no crime scene, no DNA hits, no fingerprints, no witnesses and worst of all, no defined face. There is virtually nothing to report on with the victim of this crime other than the scant evidence that has been collected around the victim and a handful of hypotheses that can be drawn from each item. Regardless, this lack of clues has not kept the Pennsylvania State Police from keeping an active eye on any detail this case has to offer.
On July 11, 1995, a man went fishing in the afternoon at the stream off of Valley Creek Road in East Caln Township, Pennsylvania. After fishing for no more than 15 minutes, he took notice of a red vinyl suitcase bound with wire and wrapped in a green trash bag that held the remains of a female torso. NOTE - of everything I've read, they keep alluding to just the 'torso', but in fact this is everything of the victim except for the victim's legs. Nothing else has ever mentioned any other body part being dismembered.
There was no identification on the woman, and because of the massive heatwave going through PA at the time, coupled with the fact that the body had been exposed to the elements, there was no way to make a positive identification on the woman as she was deemed 'unrecognizable' from the amount of deterioration to the body. There was no evidence of sexual trauma and there was no easily recognizable cause of death save for minor bruising above her eye and on her back. She was so far decomposed that, in fact, they couldn't quite tell her ethnicity. The range includes Caucasian, Hispanic, or perhaps Eastern European.
Her blood revealed that she may have ingested one or two alcoholic drinks before she passed and the police have said that she likely passed any time between 4-7 days before they had found her. All the clothing found in the luggage, including the suitcase itself, were generic and could have been purchased at any number of stores in southeast PA at the time, meaning that there was nothing unique with which to identify her. No witnesses, no identification, and no suspects.
Fast forward six months to January 1996. A pair of legs were found in Core County State Park, Pennsylvania, in green garbage bags. Because these were also found in water, they were also badly decomposed and were too far gone for a DNA test, but the forensic scientists analyzed the way the legs fit with the torso of the victim and it held up to three separate confirmations - those were her legs. Another bag of evidence was found at the scene containing clothing that matched the size of the torso (see links below for details); however, it appears no evidence has come from this. The only pieces of working evidence that police have been able to make available to the public have been a bust created by Frank Bender and a pair of images that were computer generated to say what she might have looked like (one version Caucasian, one version Hispanic). No official note has been made of acknowledged theories other than the police stating she was not likely a native of Philadelphia and, possibly, not of this country entirely.
Crimes are committed every day and with the advances in technology happening at such a rapid pace, the odds of catching these criminals seem to get better all the time. I suppose that the crime I never honestly considered was that I could possibly be forgotten or treated as a stranger, even in death. My interest in this particular case is not rooted in the idea that no crime should go unpunished (although I do support the sentiment); rather, it was that a woman was chopped up and dumped in what is now my backyard and no one knows who she is. Even worse, people have stopped asking as her story begins slipping into folklore of those who fish at the spot where she was found. I feel it is a compulsory oath to our human rights to ensure that our stories are seen through all the way to the end, no matter what.
If you know anything on CASE 13616 that may be of use, please contact the PA state police below:
Pennsylvania State Police Embreeville Station Tpr Chad Roberts 717-299-7650 or Tpr Daniel Covert 610-486-6214 or Chester County Coroner's Office 610-344-6165