LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) - It's a 36-year-old unsolved murder. A woman's body was found in a vacant dirt lot across from the Sahara Hotel on Aug. 14, 1979. To this day she is only known as Jane "Sahara Sue" Doe.
But her case is kept alive because of the dedicated few who are passionate about solving the hundreds of cold cases in Clark County.
"I mean is this important? Yeah, it's important. We've got an opportunity to make some changes," says former Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy. "There's more than one person that knows what happened to Sahara Sue. More than one."
Jane "Sahara Sue" Doe was a white female, 5-foot-6, around 100 pounds, between 15 and 20 years old with brown hair and brown eyes.
"One of the things special about her is that Sahara Sue didn't have any natural teeth," says Murphy. "She had just had dentures put in within a short period of time prior to her death."
Murphy retired earlier this year, accepting a position in Virginia with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Murphy is now responsible for more than 700 unidentifiable children across the country.
"They never stop looking. They never close a file until all of the work is done," he said.
This past summer, the NCMEC selected Jane "Sahara Sue" Doe's case for review.
"So think about it. You're looking at a case from 1979, and now you're applying the science of 2015 to those cases," Murphy said.
The center created a new image of "Sahara Sue."
"In Sahara Sue's case we were able to take the composite drawing, or the photograph, and make it so it appears that you are looking at someone who is a living person," Murphy said.
New technology also led to a new breakthrough in the 36-year-old murder mystery.
"Pollen is another science that we are using now," Murphy said. "We gather pollen on our clothes, and that's unique to certain areas."
Pollen found on Jane "Sahara Sue" Doe's clothing was unique to the Central California Valley.
"All of that information is funneled directly back to law enforcement and then they follow up on those leads," he said.
Metro is on board. The department recently created its cold case unit, bringing back retired homicide Sgt. Ken Hefner as an investigator.
"There are some that just stick with you that you wish you could have solved," says Hefner, who served Metro for 25 years. "You know, for people who do this stuff for a long time, it almost becomes a calling rather than a job."
Jane "Sahara Sue" Doe's case is a thick binder about 6 inches deep, with evidence from day one to present. Hefner says it's believed she went to a nearby liquor store with a man before her death. A bottle of soda and liquor was found at the crime scene.
"We were able to put here in the company of what may be the suspect, shortly before she was discovered dead," says Hefner, adding that it was the liquor store clerk who was able to put her in the company of a man.
However, the challenge with cold case investigations is time. The clerk has since passed away from natural causes. And a suspect sketch published in the newspaper in 1979 didn't result in finding the person or people responsible.
Jane "Sahara Sue" Doe's file is decades of clues to an incomplete puzzle.
"She still remains unidentified, and that makes it difficult for us because we really don't have a starting point," says Hefner.
"There's a mom or a dad that do not know where their child is," says Murphy. "And there is also something else. She still has the right to have justice. Someone took her life."
Her finals moments were in the dark. But Jane "Sahara Sue" Doe's story is standing the test of time, thanks to those continuing the investigation from up above.
"The light of hope burns bright," says Murphy. "And all we have to do is remember that."
Anyone with information is asked to call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-The-Lost.
Metro's Cold Case Unit has a hotline at 702-828-8973 or ColdCaseHomicide@lvmpd.com
. You can also call the Clark County Coroner's Office at 702-455-3210.