Grundy County coroner exhumes body of unidentified woman found murdered in 1976

December 20, 2018

Daily Journal staff report

MORRIS — Two recent tips in the cold case investigation of a woman’s body found in a Grundy County field in 1976 did not pan out, according to the coroner’s office.

However, Coroner John Callahan’s office decided to exhume the body of the victim and send her remains to be examined by a forensic expert in Texas.

She is described as a black female; between 18 and 23 years of age; with black hair and brown eyes; 5-feet, 7-inches; and 150 pounds.

The exhumation of the body from an unmarked grave occurred on Tuesday at the Braceville-Gardner Cemetery in Braceville.

With advances in modern forensic science and technology, Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson said they have reached out to an expert in Texas in hopes of identifying the victim.

“We reached a corner with the initial DNA obtained from the victim’s sweater and felt that we stood a better chance of identifying this female by exhuming her and sending bones to UNTHCI (The University of North Texas Human Center for Identification) in Fort Worth, Texas,” Johnson said in a release.

“The lab specializes in mitochondrial DNA, something more enhanced. We also look forward to using genealogy in the near future.”

The body was found on Oct. 2, 1976, by an area farmer in a field 1.4 miles east of LaSalle County on the north side of U.S. Route 6, according to a story in the Morris Daily News on Oct. 4, 1976. She had been shot in the back of the head, and the bullet exited the forehead. A plastic bag and a knitted sweater covered her head.

After several weeks of not being able to make any identification, the body was buried under the authority of then-Coroner James Reeves.

“I’ve known about this unidentified female since I started in the coroner’s office in 1994, and it has troubled me that someone’s loved one is buried here and was never identified,” Callahan said in June when he announced they were reaching out to help identify the woman.

The office created a Facebook page for the case (facebook.com/grundycountycoldcase).

The office has worked with the Illinois State Police Crime Lab, National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, The DOE Network, the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children and various forensic artists, who helped create images of how the female might have appeared in 1976.

Recent tips

Two families contacted Callahan’s office recently about a female family member missing for 42 to 55 years. DNA samples did not match the Jane Doe.

Both families were told to finally report their relatives as a missing person and submit DNA, which might help another case, Johnson said.

Anyone with any information that might help lead to the identification of this female is asked to contact Johnson at 815-941-3359 or email bjohnson@grundyco.org.

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