Could a decades-old cold case murder of woman in Wisconsin be traced back to New Mexico?
New forensic evidence has investigators thinking an unidentified victim may have been from the southwest.
The cold case dates back to 1984, near Westby, Wisconsin. On May 4 between 11:15 and 11:30 p.m., a group of teenagers found the body of a woman alongside a gravel road.
The woman had been badly beaten and her hands were severed from her wrists.
To this day, investigators have been unable to identify the woman who’s described as Caucasian, between 50 and 63 years old, 150 lbs, 5-foot-5 inches tall with blue eyes and brown-graying hair.
Investigators believe the woman was killed elsewhere and that her body was dumped in rural Vernon County. They believe her death came just hours before her body was found.
“Somebody knew her,” said Sheriff John Spears of Vernon County, Wisconsin. “Somebody knows who she is.”
With new forensic evidence, Sheriff Spears and investigators at the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office hope someone in New Mexico can help.
“It’s just a matter of getting that information, her picture and all that stuff to that right location where somebody will put a name with her,” said Sheriff Spears.
The Vernon County Sheriff’s Office recently submitted the Jane Doe’s clothing to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for pollen testing.
The tests found tree pollen on the woman’s clothing matching a profile though to be from the “semi-arid highlands or lowest elevation zone of the Temperate Sierra,” found in New Mexico and Arizona.
A 31 year veteran of the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Scott Bjerkos has kept track of the case since he began his career.
“Our goal is number one to identify this person, and to bring this person home,” said Bjerkos.
Bjerkos spoke to KRQE News 13 Thursday over the phone from Wisconsin. He believes the latest information may finally help investigators identify the woman who was killed, and the person who killed her.
“No one deserves to be going through the treatment that this lady received,” said Bjerkos.
The Vernon County Sheriff’s Office has received more than 400 leads about the case over the last few decades, but never made an appeal for information from the southwest.
“We’re hoping that someone may remember, even though it’s been 34 years ago, of someone that has not been reported missing or maybe has some information that would assist in this investigation,” said Bjerkos.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office at 608-637-2123 or the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation at 608-266-1671.
The forensic test done on Wisconsin’s Jane Doe is similar to a test done for a murder case near Houston, Texas. In 2016, two farmers found the body of a little girl inside a suitcase wrapped in garbage bags.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did an analysis on pollen grains found on the girl’s body and inside the suitcase. They were able to determine the pollen was from a type of ragweed found here in New Mexico.