Jane Seneca Doe remains a mystery after 45 – NBC Chicago
Every year around this time, Brandon Johnson, the Deputy Coroner for Grundy County walks to a location near Seneca on US Highway 6 and leaves a bouquet of flowers, as well as a laminated photo of a woman he doesn has never met.
In fact, a woman whose name he doesn’t know.
“It’s our job to remember her,” he said. “Until she found her name.”
In official records, she is known as Jane Seneca Doe. On October 2, 1976, his body was found on this side of the road without identification. She was reportedly between 15 and 27 years old and had been shot in the head.
“We have learned a lot since we exhumed his body,” Johnson told NBC 5. “But we still have a ways to go.”
Troubled by the story, one of the most puzzling of all Illinois cold cases, Johnson arranged for the woman’s body to be exhumed in the winter of 2018. He obtained a sample. DNA and sent it to the DNA Doe Project, an organization based in California. who scours genealogy and ancestry databases, hoping to match unknown victims from the past, with their living relatives. And that effort gave some clues.
“Our deceased was most likely from Selma, Alabama,” he said. “But many of those branches have moved to other states.”
Investigators still do not have the woman’s real name. They believe the names Calhoun and Harris are important in his family tree, possibly with his grandparents or great-grandparents. Branches of the family are believed to have moved to Cincinnati and Detroit.
But there is no idea who she is, or where she really came from. Or why she was in Illinois.
Or who killed her.
After all, it’s hard to find a murderer when you don’t know the name of the victim. Especially after 45 years.
“I hope that maybe one day there could be a criminal case,” Johnson said. “But at this point, I’m more geared towards getting her identity.”
Johnson says potential relatives have been found in other states, but some have been reluctant to provide DNA samples.
“At this point, I don’t know if they are questioning the legitimacy of this or if they are scared,” he said.
But his investigation is continuing in earnest. A crime has been committed here. But it is also a young woman who was buried in an anonymous grave.
“Not having your name, not having someone inquiring about you — she was someone for someone,” Johnson says. “A friend, a cousin, maybe a sister. It is so disheartening.
For now, he agrees that the DNA investigation only needs one hit, someone who knew Jane Doe from Grundy County. Someone she misses.
But in the meantime, Johnson is making sure she isn’t forgotten.
“Most people have their names when they die and in this case this woman doesn’t,” he said. “And it’s terribly sad.”