Case of 'Jane Doe' may have links to Tioga County
On March 14, 1968, the body of a young woman was found sexually assaulted and then her throat slit in a field located in Huntington Beach, Calif. And since that time, according to Lieutenant Russell Reinhart of the Huntington Beach Police Department, the case has been opened and closed four times, with no leads to solve the case of the murdered woman - or even to discover her identity.
But in December of 2010, the detectives in California reopened the case of the murdered "Jane Doe", and are now asking residents in the Tioga County, N.Y. area for assistance in identifying who this young woman, found murdered over four decades ago, really is.
The prospect of "Jane Doe's" ties to the area, according to Reinhart, are in relation to the shoes she was wearing at the time of her murder that were manufactured at an Endicott Johnson shoe factory in Owego, N.Y. The fact that she was wearing these shoes, according to Reinhart, combined with corroborating information documented early in the investigation, is leading the detectives and officers to believe that "Jane Doe" may have, at one time, lived in the Tioga County, N.Y. area.
"It is our hopes," said Reinhart, "that if we get her picture out there, that someone will be able to identify who she is." "It's a lead, it's a clue," he added, "people have to be open minded."
On a warm spring day in March of 1968, four young boys, according to Reinhart, were walking through a field in Huntington Beach, Calif. when they stumbled upon the body of a woman who had apparently been murdered.
Reinhart explained that during that time, most of that area had fields. Today, he added, it's different, with a population of approximately 200,000 people.
When the woman was discovered, police immediately began the investigation, and were able to trace "Jane Doe" to a tavern where she served as a barmaid in Long Beach, Calif. Reinhart explained that although she didn't have many close friends, those who knew who her offered that she had not been in the area long (less than one year,) and that she was from New York and had a New York accent. Some of those who knew her also stated that she left a husband and a 2-year-old son behind.
Reinhart also mentioned that some knew her as Rosie, but that the name could have been an alias or a nickname.
After investigating the case extensively for a couple years, according to Reinhart, it eventually went cold - with no significant leads discovered. He did note that the case was reopened several times, to include a reopening in 2001 in which evidence from the sexual assault was submitted for DNA testing and a possible match. The testing yielded no results, Reinhart stated.
"Maybe the perpetrator stopped committing crimes," said Reinhart of the negative results of the DNA testing, "or maybe they were already in prison."
Either way, the detectives, as well as Reinhart, were not ready to give up.
In December of 2010, Detective Mike Reilly of the Huntington Beach Police in California re-opened the case, and this time looked at the muddy shoes that "Jane Doe" was wearing - shoes that had been preserved from the crime scene.
The shoes, according to Reinhart, were manufactured at Endicott Johnson, and had Owego imprinted on them. This led investigators to Tioga County, N.Y. to look for answers, and assistance in identifying their "Jane Doe." And although Reinhart stated that the shoes could have been purchased anywhere, the Owego imprint was a small clue they had that might help to eventually identify the victim of this heinous crime.
In early January, investigators from California began to disseminate the composite sketch of their "Jane Doe" that was created by a forensic artist. The sketch, according to Reinhart, was created directly from the photos taken during "Jane Doe's" autopsy. "We obviously couldn't post her photo from the crime scene, so we had to create the sketch," Reinhart added. "It is very accurate."
He also noted that "Jane Doe" was estimated to be 25 years old at that time, and if alive, would be in her late sixties today. Her son, he added, would be in his forties.
Back in Tioga County, Sheriff Investigator Wayne Multoun was contacted by the investigators from California, but had no comment as the case was being handled out there.
Emma Sedore, the Tioga County Historian, did some research upon learning about "Jane Doe," and offered some information about the history of Endicott Johnson and the factories in Owego, N.Y.
According to Sedore, the Endicott Johnson factories opened in 1927 on the corners surrounding McMaster Street, South Depot and Central Avenue in Owego, N.Y. She also noted that they had a store at 32-34 Lake St. in Owego, N.Y. that opened in 1927 as well. But through her research and recollections, Sedore noted that of the two factories, one manufactured infant shoes and the other men's shoes. Sedore also noted that the factory that manufactured infant shoes closed in 1967, and that they may have started manufacturing women's shoes at that time.
And although the shoes were sold in the store in Owego, and several stores located in Binghamton and Endicott, N.Y., there was also a second-hand store located at the factory location that offered lower cost shoes that were manufactured with flaws.
"She could have very well worked at the factory," Sedore added.
Utilizing the composite sketch submitted by the Reinhart for publishing and dissemination, Sedore began to search through historical society and library records to see if she can find someone who resembles her - a search that is continuing.
In the meantime, the Huntington Beach police have posted this information on the America's Most Wanted website under their cold case files, and is hoping that someone, upon seeing the composite sketch, will know something.
"Our goal is to get this image out there," Reinhart stated. If anyone recognizes the "Jane Doe" from the composite sketch, or has information that might be related to who she is, they are asked to contact the Huntington Beach police by calling (714) 536-5976. You can also visit a page they have set up at facebook.com/HuntingtonBeachPolice to learn more.Detectives and police need the community's help to solve 43-year old cold case
By Wendy Post (TIMES-SHAMROCK WRITER)
Published: January 30, 2011