In August 1971, the remains of a young woman were found in the woods outside of Cave Junction, Oregon. They were little more than a skeleton, clothing and some distinctive jewelry.
The Josephine County Sheriff’s Department was unable to identify the body. After exhausting its leads, the case went cold — the remains stored in a cardboard box labeled “Jane Doe - Josephine County 71-940”.
Now, almost 50 years later, Jane Doe finally has a name. She’s been identified as 16-year-old Anne Marie Lehman of Aberdeen, Washington.
For many years, her bones lay in a cardboard box in Josephine County.
Then, in the late 1990s, an organization of the homicide room at the sheriff’s office prompted a rediscovery of the remains. A clay facial reconstruction of the victim’s face was made. She was given the nickname of Jane “Annie” Doe, though it would be years before anyone knew Anne was her real name.
After moving into a larger space in 2003, Oregon’s Medical Examiner Division put a call out to law enforcement agencies around the state to send to their facility any human remains that had been saved as evidence. The agency wanted to make sure all remains were kept safe, able to be tracked, and treated with respect. In 2013, it took possession of Jane “Annie” Doe.
“We had really a team of different people looking at this case, setting new eyes on it, and really brain-trusting exactly what we were gonna move forward with,” Dr. Vance said.
Then came the big break. Relatives of Anne Marie had uploaded their genetic profiles to an open source database website called GEDmatch.
“There’s a lot of genealogy buffs in the world,” Dr. Vance said. “What ultimately broke this case was the fact that this particular DNA profile matched or associated to a family in Aberdeen, Washington.”
Investigators took that information and used it to find the family, ultimately making a DNA match through Anne Marie’s sister.
“It’s still a bit of a mystery, but because of this identification, because we have her first and last name, now we can talk to her classmates, we can talk to the people that hung out with her.” said Dr. Vance. “It’s really such an amazing, fundamental break in this case for Josephine County Sheriff’s Office. [I’m] really, really proud that it happened.”
Anne Marie Lehman would have been 65 this year.
Hear the full conversation from OPB’s “All Things Considered” in the audio player above.