RACINE COUNTY — The Racine County Sheriff’s Office is hoping that emerging technology could help identify a woman who was found dead in Racine County almost two decades ago.
Advanced technology is solving cases that were incapable of being solved in the past, as recently evidenced by the identification of the “Golden State Killer.”
Decades after he reportedly raped and murdered several woman in California, Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was identified as the reported killer after authorities ran DNA evidence through a genealogy website.
And now local authorities would like to use that same technology to identify the body of Jane Doe, who was found in Racine County years ago.
“I see the TV commercials and wonder, if I submit her DNA, is there a family member within this country or even the world who also input DNA who might be able to say ‘That’s the mom,’ or ‘That’s the daughter?’ “ said Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling.
On July 21, 1999, a young woman’s body was found on the edge of a Raymond cornfield off 92nd Street between Six Mile Road and Seven Mile Road. Authorities believe the young woman was tortured before her body was dumped. Nearly nineteen years later, her identity still remains unknown.
It’s a case that Schmaling said he and his office often return to. “It’s a cold case, but it hasn’t grown dust because we continue to open it up and we get tips and leads from time to time,” Schmaling said.
On Oct. 16, 2013, Jane Doe’s body was exhumed from her resting place at Holy Family Cemetery, 6124 Highway 31, Caledonia. The hope was to gain more insight into her identity, utilizing advanced technology.
Various tests were conducted on Jane Doe while her body was at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to the Sheriff’s Office. A forensic anthropologist was even called in from Tennessee to perform isotope testing, which measures natural variations in the body.
Authorities determined that Jane Doe was between 18 and 25 years old, stood approximately 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed about 120 pounds. They noted that her teeth were in poor condition and her ears were pierced twice, but her identity has remained a mystery.
Her body was reinterred on July 21, 2015 — the 16th anniversary of the day her body was found.
“Unfortunately, we are still plugging away at this and I really desperately want to bring closure and put a name to this face and through that,” Schmaling said.
Schmaling said his office would like to be able to utilize genealogy to help them find Jane Doe’s identity, but they want to make sure any action taken was legal, as if they were to enter Jane Doe’s information into a genealogy website, they would have to lie and say that they were her.
“We are very interested in doing this, but I want to make sure we stand on legal ground,” Schmaling said.
Schmaling said the Sheriff’s Office is working with the corporation counsel, the county’s attorneys, and the district attorney to determine what legal issues surround the use of Jane Doe’s DNA on a genealogy website.
“I don’t want to enter the county in a lawsuit and I certainly wouldn’t want to lose a case in the courtroom someday,” Schmaling said. “I want to make sure I build a strong courtroom-ready case.”
Schmaling said if they could utilize genealogy to locate a relative of Jane Doe, they may be able to finally identify her and that may ultimately lead to finding out who ended her life.
Should the Sheriff’s Office get authorization, Schmaling said the Sheriff’s Office would also use the technology in the future in other cases.
In the meantime, Schmaling is anxiously awaiting the trial in California to see how the genealogy evidence is approached from a legal standpoint.
“This all new territory,” Schmaling said. “I know we are treading new water here, but this is something I am definitely interested in pursuing and we’ll see if the lawyers give me that green light that I desperately need.”
“I see the TV commercials and wonder, if I submit her DNA, is there a family member within this country or even the world who also input DNA who might be able to say ‘That’s the mom,’ or ‘That’s the daughter?’ “ Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling