WI VERNON COUNTY JANE DOE: WF, 50-63, found near Westby, WI - 4 May 1984

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On May 4, 1984 three teenagers found the body of an unidentified white female on a gravel road in rural Vernon County near Westby, Wisconsin. Investigators believe the woman was killed somewhere along the same road and moved to the spot where she was found. Her face had been rendered unrecognizable from the extensive damage that had been done through blunt force trauma. Her hands had been removed, presumably in an effort to prevent identification by fingerprints. After the case was featured on the local news, a couple came forward and stated they saw a suspicious man in the area driving a yellow 1982 Datsun, but investigators were unable to locate the man, or to identify the deceased.

DNA Doe Project Status
Research in progress



Circumstances
Type: Unidentified Deceased
Date Body Found: May 4, 1984

Location Found Map
Location: Westby, Wisconsin
County: Vernon County
Circumstances of Recovery: Body found along rural gravel road. Both hands were severed at the wrist and have not been located. A yellow two door compact vehicle was seen in the vicinity.

Details of Recovery
Inventory of Remains: One or both hands not recovered
Condition of Remains: Recognizable face

Physical Description
Hair Color: Brown
Head Hair Description: Brown - Hair is graying near temples.
Left Eye Color: Blue
Right Eye Color: Blue


Clothing and Accessories
Accessories: Upper dentures with numbers 420 or 4-20 inscribed and 289 in raised lettering.
Clothing: Brown and blue plaid jacket (with pink/purple lining), black and blue dress, tan loafer shoes
Jewelry: Men's quartz SEIKO watch model 8620 0019 serial number 5498

Warning: Post-mortem photos at NamUs link

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Last edited:

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Estimated Age: 50-65 years old
Race: White
Gender: Female
Height: 5'5" to 5'6"
Weight: 150 lbs.
Hair Color: Tinted brown with streaks of gray at the temples. She may have had a permanent shortly before her death.
Eye Color: Blue
Distinguishing Marks/Features: Toenails were left untrimmed with nails having a hooked appearance. Vertical abdominal scar (43/4") along her midline. Blood type O postive.


Between 11:15pm and 11:30pm, three people driving along Old Line Road saw the victim's body lying at the roadside, about six miles from Westby, Wisconsin. Her hands were severed at the wrist and have not been recovered.

The killer made no attempt to hide her body. She had been bludgeoned to death at another location. A yellow 2-door compant vehicle was seen in the vicinity.

When the sheriff's deputy arrived on scene at 11:50pm, he noticed fresh tracks in the gravel indicating a vehicle had made a U-turn.

After seeing the news report the murder, a couple stated they had seen a parked, bright yellow compact car with a man outside of it. The man was moving around to the driver's side from the passenger side at about 9:45pm on May 4th. When investigators checked the area the couple reported seeing the vehicle, they found a piece of the fractured denture, some blood, and a man's Seiko watch. The watch's band had separated from the watch at one end.

Based upon the tire tracks, investigators theorize that the suspect had pulled of US Highway 14 and made an attempt to dump the body when the couple interrupted him. As he drove away, his tires spun. The car then went south then west on Old Line Road about three miles and dumped the body.

Investigators believe the victim was not native to the area where she was found. Over 400 leads have been followed in the case.

In May 2018, it was announced that forensic tests on the pollen on the victim's clothing indicated she was possibly native to Arizona or New Mexico, or had at least spent time in those states.
 

Vernon County Jane Doe is an American murder victim whose body was found on May 4, 1984. Her identity remains unknown.[1][2][3] Her hands had been removed, probably to prevent identification by means of fingerprinting.

The case has been heavily investigated since discovery of the body, with no progress toward finding either her identity or her murderer.[4]


Over 4,000 leads have surfaced in the case, one recently being the arrest of multiple persons who fraudulently used checks from a missing Amherst, Wisconsin woman who disappeared around the same time as when the Jane Doe was found.[13][14]

Despite the possible link to Amherst, police believe that she did not reside in the area where she was found.[11] Seven missing women have been ruled out as possible identities.[2][15]

Authorities have used news media multiple times toward identifying the victim. In 2012, officials "pushed" the case to reach areas of both Minnesota and Wisconsin that were linked to Highway 14.[4] The case was broadcast in a three-day news special, titled as "Catching Her Killer: Justice for Jane Doe," to uncover new leads in 2013. Yet no lead so far has proved useful.[5]
 
Vernon County Jane Doe 1984 was added to Gedmatch by the DNA Doe Project. As of February 22, 2021, she had just over 600 DNA matches. Her highest match was 57.2 cM - this is not a substantial match. She is on the Google Drive spreadsheet at:
 

Description
On May 4, 1984 three teenagers found the body of an unidentified white female on a gravel road in rural Vernon County near Westby, Wisconsin. Investigators believe the woman was killed somewhere along the same road and moved to the spot where she was found. Her face had been rendered unrecognizable from the extensive damage that had been done through blunt force trauma. Her hands had been removed, presumably in an effort to prevent identification by fingerprints. After the case was featured on the local news, a couple came forward and stated they saw a suspicious man in the area driving a yellow 1982 Datsun, but investigators were unable to locate the man, or to identify the deceased.

NamUs UP4786
Date Found May 4, 1984
Race White / Caucasian
Sex Female
Age 50 to 65
PMI 24 to 48 hours
Location Westby, Wisconsin

Agency of Jurisdiction

Wisconsin Department of Justice
Joe Welsch, Special Agent
715-839-3830

Links to More Information
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)
Vernon County Jane Doe - Wikipedia
261UFWI
ASU professor helps in 30-year-old murder


Status:
This is no longer a DDP case and is being worked by another provider of investigative genetic genealogy



 

May 4, 2024, 2:31 PM EDT
By Nicolás Viñuela
It’s been 40 years since three teenagers came across the body of a middle-aged woman along the side of Old Line Road about six miles outside Westby, Wisconsin.

Detectives arrived at the scene around 11:15 p.m. on May 4, 1984. The woman had suffered extensive damage to her face and body. “It was very clear to investigators at the time — this was a homicide,” Vernon County Sheriff Roy Torgerson told Dateline.


According to Sheriff Torgerson, her face had been bludgeoned and both of her hands had been cut off, likely in an effort to make it difficult to identify her. “We believe that she was killed at a different location and dumped like a piece of garbage on Old Line Road,” Sheriff Torgerson told Dateline. Authorities do not know where the woman was actually killed.

The department was unable to identify the victim, who has come to be known simply as Vernon County Jane Doe.

They determined that the Jane Doe was between 50 and 63 years old, with graying brown hair and blue eyes. She weighed approximately 150 lbs. and was about 5’5”.

When Vernon County Jane Doe was found, she was wearing a black dress with a blue and white paisley print, a blue turtleneck sweater, nylon stockings, and a multicolored coat.

Sheriff Torgerson chose not to comment on how long authorities believe she had been dead before her body was found by the teens.

The day after the woman’s body was discovered, the Vernon County Sheriff’s Department received a call from a couple who had seen a news report about the case. “They called and indicated that, on May 4th at about 9:45 p.m., they saw a male outside of a yellow two-door compact car at a location not too far from where Jane Doe was found,” Sheriff Torgerson said. “It appears this couple may have scared this person off.”

That call also gave investigators an idea as to how long the woman’s body may have been at the location on Old Line Road before she was found. If the callers had indeed scared off the killer, “then it would be safe, you know, safe to say that she was not at the location very long, where she was found,” Torgerson said.

The sheriff told Dateline that the tip led investigators to another location, where they found four pieces of evidence: tire marks, blood, a man’s watch, and part of a set of dentures.

Sheriff Torgerson confirmed that the partial dentures belonged to Vernon County Jane Doe. According to the sheriff, the serial numbers inscribed on the dentures were 420 or 4-20. Also engraved on the upper denture was the number 289. “We’ve been seeking information from the dental community over all the years,” Sheriff Torgerson told Dateline. “Unfortunately, [we] have not received any positive leads.”

Over the course of the 40-year investigation, the department has also looked at the woman’s clothing — specifically some “unique” buttons on her coat — in their efforts to identify her. “We’re constantly seeking information from the public with the hope that someone might recognize the photos of the clothing,” Sheriff Torgerson said. “As we investigate, anything unique is a tool.”

Vernon County Jane Doe was exhumed in August of 2015 and her DNA was sent out for testing. A facial reconstruction sketch was also created. She was later buried at Viroqua Cemetery in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Her gravestone reads: Jane Doe Found May 4, 1984.

In 2018, the woman’s clothing was submitted for pollen testing. “The testing was a fairly high degree of certainty that she was from — or that she had been — in the southwest United States,” Sheriff Torgerson told Dateline. He said that investigators are pursuing leads in the DNA testing field, as well. “We continue to investigate and we will utilize the technology available to identify Vernon County Jane Doe, and — with the strong hope of bringing her killer to justice,” he said.

This case was submitted to Dateline by someone who believes they may be related to Vernon County Jane Doe. Sheriff Torgerson said that the department receives “a lot of calls like this” and that, as they receive those types of calls, they check the DNA against Vernon County Jane Doe to try and identify her. No information has been publicly released about a positive DNA match.

No suspects have ever been named in connection to the case.

Sheriff Torgerson told Dateline that the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office has not given up on bringing justice to the unidentified woman. “We want the public’s help,” he said. “We feel there’s information out there that will help us identify Jane Doe.”

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office at 608-637-2123.

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