Author Topic: NEW BRIGHTON JANE DOE: NF, 25-50, found at Long Lake Regional Park - 15 September 2000  (Read 246 times)


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5 years of work fail to yield even an ID

Pioneer Press

Detective Gary Sykes can rattle off the seven or eight murder cases
he's dealt with in his 28 years with the New Brighton police.

There was Kari Koskinen, the 33-year-old mother who disappeared from
her apartment building in 1994 and was found dead a month later in
North Oaks, apparently killed by her apartment manager. There was
Diane Buntrock, murdered by her son Michael in 1995. There was the
FBI snitch killed in 1986 by the criminals he betrayed, and Eleanor
Stich, the 77-year-old woman beaten and left to die in 2002 by two
men her husband allowed into her home to use the phone.

But there is one case Sykes and his colleagues have not been able to

On Sept. 15, 2000, two high school students taking a walk in Long
Lake Regional Park came across a single tennis shoe, right in the
middle of their path. The shoe was pointing toward Rush Lake, about
20 to 25 feet to the north.

Curious, the two made their way through the weeds and poplar trees at
the edge of the lake. Then they saw the body, little more than bones
by that point, in a tangle of cattails.

"She had no clothing whatsoever, no jewelry on, no marks, scars,
tattoos," Sykes said of the victim, whose gender was initially
unclear. Actually, there wasn't much skin left to examine for marks,
and internal organs were gone, due to extensive decomposition. There
was no way to get a fingerprint or determine the color of her eyes.
She had been dead anywhere from 45 days to six months, investigators

Not even the lone tennis shoe belonged to the victim, Sykes said.

It wasn't much to go on.

Because of the condition of the body, the coroner could not determine
a cause of death, Sykes said. But there was evidence of "several
sharp-force injuries, knife-stabbing wounds," he said.

"Obviously, she's a victim of a homicide," Sykes said. "She wasn't
out there wandering around the park naked by herself."

Initially, police held back certain details from the public, such as
the fact that one of the victim's top front teeth was missing. They
thought they could find a match with one of the many missing persons
reported in the region and didn't want to give away too much
information for fear of compromising an investigation.

But check after check proved futile. Dental records led police to
quickly rule out the most highly publicized cases, such as the 1997
disappearance of Toni Bachman of White Bear Township, who has never
been found.

In addition to publicizing a tip line, Sykes submitted all the
information he had about his Jane Doe to the FBI's National Crime
Information Center, which forwards him reports of other missing women
as they come in.

"They send me anything that's even close," Sykes said, thumbing
through a box full of such notices, organized from A to Z. By now, he
estimates he's examined 400 of them, some from as far away as Puerto

But the influx has slowed. "I haven't gotten any for quite a while,"
he said.

Investigators made other attempts to find out who the victim was.

The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension gave forensic sculptor
Marcia Cummings the job of reconstructing the dead woman's face,
using her skull. New Brighton police sent out pictures of the result,
to no avail.

Anthropologists examined the remains, boiling all the bones and then
putting them back together, Sykes said. They determined that the
victim was white, around 5 feet 5 inches tall and somewhere between
the ages of 25 and 50. She had light brown hair with some auburn in

Sykes also sent the victim's information to the Doe Network, an
Internet site that lists missing and unidentified persons.

The woman's remains were finally buried a couple years ago, though
her DNA is on file with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Sykes may never know the story behind this tragedy. But he believes
the victim was from somewhere nearby, and that one of two things
happened to her.

"She was either a drug addict or prostitute, and some guy did it to
her, or a family member did it to her," he said. "And are either of
them going to come forward and tell me they did it? No, they're not."

Even if authorities find out who she was, and who likely killed her,
the lack of physical evidence might doom any chance of a conviction,
Sykes said.

The detective keeps pictures of the victim's reconstructed face taped
to a wall in his office. He occasionally fields calls from other
police departments hoping to match one of their "lost" to
Sykes' "found."

But by now, some of the details have faded in the detective's mind,
and frankly, he said, there's not much more he can do.

"I keep her up there," he said, nodding at the wall. "I keep her in
the back of my mind. Getting her ID'd " that would make me happy.
Just finding out who she is."

Emily Gurnon can be reached at egurnon@... or 651-228-