Author Topic: ALBANY COUNTY JANE DOE: WF, 28-58, found in Fox Park, WY - 2 August 1999  (Read 290 times)


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Det. Cpl. William Meyer uses latest technology to reopen Jane Doe cold case

BY AARON LeCLAIR / Saturday, September 29, 2012

Investigators found jewelry with the skeletal remains of a woman, Jane Doe 1999 that they hope will help identify here. This ring has two zirconias in an unusuall pattern on the top. Courtesy photos

If she could speak, Jane Doe 1999 might tell you her hopes and dreams.

She might share the excitement she felt when her first-born child said Mommy, or she might talk about landing her first job after school.

She might also tell you what happened when, more than 20 years ago, someone took her life and dumped and scattered her body in a mountainous area west of Laramie.

The remains of Jane Doe 1999, which a hiker found, belong to this woman.

And Det. Cpl. William Meyer of the Albany County Sheriff's Office is trying to figure out who she is.

Meyer was able to reopen the case recently because of advances in technology that are helping law enforcement across the country open and close cases that would have remained unsolvable without them.

DNA helps reopen case

Last year, Meyer reopened the Jane Doe 1999 case in which a woman's skeletal remains were found in a remote, mountainous area near Fox Park on Aug. 3, 1999.

Back then, an autopsy had determined that Jane Doe 1999 was a white female between 24 and 58 years of age.

Because it was skeletal remains, there's only so much you can get from an autopsy, so there's some broad range for ages and so forth, Meyer said.

Evidence at the scene also suggested that Jane Doe 1999 was about 5-feet, 2-inches tall and had a larger-than-average build.

Because the remains were bones, determining the time of death was difficult, Meyer said.

The time of death could have been a period of one and a half to two years prior to 99 upwards to eight to 10 years prior to that, he said.

The case went cold in 1999 because the sheriff's office had no leads or avenues to explore with the scant autopsy and site investigation evidence, Meyer said.

Now, however, with recent advances in technology, especially when it comes to DNA profiling, Meyer said he had enough tools at his disposal to reopen the case last year.

Just yesterday, I got a DNA profile back for her, he said. I sent a femur and rib bone down to (the University of North) Texas (Center for Human Identification). They do DNA withdrawal.

The DNA of DNA

The Center for Human Identification contains a genetics lab staffed with forensic anthropologists, a fingerprint examiner and an odontologist that generates DNA profiles and other evidence.

It's a complete genetic lab to where DNA profiles can be obtained on buccal swabs that are taken from family members, said Janet Franson, a Laramie native who lives near Roundup, Mont., but works for the Center for Human Identification. You get half of your DNA from your mother and half of it from your father.

With unidentified remains, DNA profiles are also generated from some type of biological evidence, such as human bones.

Once obtained, DNA profiles are entered into the Combined DNA Index System which is the FBI's program for support of criminal justice DNA databases and compared to reference profiles.

The law enforcement agency that sent evidence into the Center for Human Identification is also notified of the results, Franson said.

DNA profiles have been a huge step in investigating unidentified remains. Law enforcement only had dental records to identify remains before DNA technology got up to speed in the 2000s.

For years, that's all we had, Franson, a former police officer in Lakeland, Fla., said of dental records. It's taken a long time for DNA to really catch on and for law enforcement agencies and labs to be able to use it.

Franson said DNA profiling brought a homicide case to trial in 2006 that she had worked on as a police officer in 1984.

Cases are being cleared some cases 40 years old. There's a lot of missing people out there, she said. I'm just really happy the technology, especially the DNA technology, has come so far that it really is helping.

The Internet's role in investigations

The Internet helped Meyer reopen the Jane Doe 1999 case.

One of the large tools I've been using is a website called NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), he said. It's a website where individuals can enter both missing people and unidentified people.

A national, centralized repository and resource center for missing persons, NamUs's missing persons database contains information about missing people that can be entered by anyone.

NamUs provides users with a variety of resources, including the ability to print missing person posters and to receive biometric collection and testing assistance.

Other resources include links to state clearinghouses, medical examiner and coroner offices, law enforcement agencies, victim-assistance groups and pertinent legislation.

The website's unidentified persons database contains information entered by medical examiners and coroners. Anyone can search this database using characteristics such as sex, race, distinct body features and dental records.

Lastly, NamUs's newly added unclaimed-persons database contains information about deceased people who have been identified by name, but for whom no next of kin or family member has been identified or located to claim the body for burial or other disposition.

Only medical examiners and coroners can enter information into the unclaimed persons database; however, the database is searchable by the public using a missing person's name and birth year.

Franson, in working for the Center for Human Identification, is the regional system administrator of NamUs.

NamUs started back in 2007, she said. NamUs is kind of like one-stop shopping to put in information not only on missing persons, but also on unidentified remains.

The NamUs computer makes matches every day, identifying remains and bringing closure to one family after another's search for their missing loved ones, Franson said.

We're making more and more every day, she said. The computer, once we get the information, searches 24/7/365.

Meyer said he periodically checks NamUs for possible matches to the information he has on Jane Doe 1999.

It will give me thousands of matches to where I can contact other agencies across the country, he said. That's stuff that just wasn't there in 1999.

By uploading the Jane Doe 1999 evidence on NamUs, Meyer said he has received phone calls from people who ask if the remains belong to their missing wife, daughter or sister.

I get phone calls from individuals from other states who say, I have a missing loved one; can you tell me if this gal you guys found in '99 is my loved one, he said.

The investigation continues

Two weeks ago, Meyer said he took a cadaver dog up to the spot near Fox Park where the remains of Jane Doe 1999 were found.

The cadaver dog hit on a couple more spots, he said. We plan on going up before the snow flies this year and try to do some digging and sifting to see if we find some more stuff.

Based on the evidence and circumstances at the scene, Meyer said Jane Doe 1999 died in a suspicious nature.

In addition to skeletal remains, the sheriff's office has found jewelry a silver band with the initials M.S.S. on the outside and teardrop cubic zirconia ring at the scene that belonged to Jane Doe 1999.

While he might not be able to solve what happened to Jane Doe 1999, Meyer said he hopes he can at least identify her.

Whether or not a crime is solved, because of the time period and lack of evidence, is one thing, he said. My goal is just to get them identified.

Editor's note: Sunday's edition of the Laramie Boomerang will have a story of another Jane Doe being investigated by the Albany County Sheriff's Office. A woman's body was discovered in the area of the Dry Gulch Fire on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management in October 2010.