The remains of a woman found in a ditch in 1981 were exhumed Friday in hopes that the Fort Myers medical examiner’s office can help identify her.
Jane Doe, estimated to be in her late teens to early 20s, was found face-down in a roadside ditch in Moore Haven, Glades County, on March 9, 1981. She had suffered blunt-force trauma to her head and her death was ruled a homicide. Due to the limits of the era’s technology, she was not identified and the case went cold. The Glades County Sheriff’s Office reopened the case last year to bring the woman justice.
Jane Doe was approximately 5 feet, 4½ inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. She had auburn hair and hazel eyes, as well as a “N” tattooed on the top of her right thumb. The only other details known are that she was wearing copper-colored nail polish on her toes when she died, and she was a nail biter. She may have been at Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp or the Trucadero Bar in Clewiston around the time of her death, according to the Doe Network website, which serves as a missing-persons database.
Capt. Daryl Lewis, commander of the criminal investigations division for the Glades County Sheriff’s Office, partly attributes the unsuccessful attempt to identify her body in 1981 to the underdeveloped missing-persons database.
“The main thing is getting her identified, so hopefully the family can reclaim the body,” he said.
There are several other reasons Jane Doe was not identified in 1981. When she was found, no one came forward with any information, and the lead investigator on the case is now deceased. All initial photos of the body were taken with a rudimentary Polaroid camera, and showed a face badly decomposed by water exposure. Also, the original police report was no more than a paragraph long.
Brett Harding, with District 21 Medical Examiner’s Office in Fort Myers, received the remains Friday morning. Now the femur will be sent to the University of Texas for DNA extraction, and her skull will be used for a facial reconstruction.
Lewis declined to comment on any related evidence found in 1981, for fear of jeopardizing the ongoing investigation.
“We have very little to go on, so we don’t want to release what we’ve got,” he said.
Jane Doe is one of two Glade County homicide victims awaiting identification. The other, a male, was found around the same time as the Jane Doe, who gets priority because she was found first, Lewis said.