At around 1:00pm on the afternoon of July 11, 1995, a fisherman with a local hatchery was culling Valley Creek, an offshoot of Brandywine Creek, in East Caln Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. While fishing, he began to smell a foul odour. Upon investigating, he came across a suitcase along the right side of the creek, toward the north side of the county’s Twin Tunnels. Partly submerged in water and covered in mud, it was wrapped within a plastic green trash bag. Concerned as to what was causing the smell, he open the suitcase and came upon the nude body of a woman, whose legs had been severed and were missing. It was then that he contacted the Pennsylvania State Police.
The State Police made their way quickly down Valley Creek Road, just south of Boot Road in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Their examination showed the remains, which were already begin to decompose, had been wrapped in a bedsheet and then placed within a plastic quilt bag, which was then wrapped in a quilt and placed within the suitcase. The suitcase had also been sealed, with Jane Doe’s killer having bound it with wire and tape before placing it in the trash bag.
Approximately half a year later, on January 29, 1996, a jogger was running in the wooded area in Core Creeks State Park in Middletown Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania when they came across dismembered legs near the Duchess Lane picnic area.
The Bucks County Police Department were called to the scene, where a search was conducted between Park Road and Bridgetown Pike. They were able to located a skeletal right leg, which had no skin from the upper thigh to the ankle, the result of animal activity. They also located the left leg, present from the thigh to just below the knee, within a dark green trash bag, which had been buried in a shallow grave. The search also turned up an array of clothing within another green trash bag. Present were a selection of ladies’ formal and casual clothing, as well as girls’ casual clothing.
The areas where the the torso and the legs were found are approximately 50 miles apart.
An autopsy was performed by the Chester County Coroner upon each set of remains being brought in for examination. It was determined she had likely died between three to seven days prior to being found, with the coroner noting her death could have occurred as long as two weeks before. The exact time of death, as well as the manner in which it occurred, were difficult to gleam, given the state of the remains, as they had been submerged in water during the summer heat. However, it was determined she had died as the result of a homicide.
There was no evidence that she had been raped or strangled, but her body did show signs of trauma. She had a small bruise on her right eye and two smaller ones on her back, indicating she had possibly gotten into a struggle before she died. While her blood-alcohol level indicated she’d had one or two drinks prior to her death, the coroner noted it was not enough to intoxicate her. Toxicology reports also came back negative for drugs in her system.
It was determined her legs had been removed from her pelvis post-mortem. Due to the level of decomposition, they were unable to use DNA to positively match the legs to the torso, but were able to correctly pair them with the help of doctors with the local Phoenixville Hospital. They placed the right femur head into the acetabulum of Jane Doe’s torso and found the pair fit perfectly. The examination also discovered identical cut marks on both the legs and the torso – 15 in total – made from the same small, sharp blade.
Jane Doe’s ethnicity is currently unknown, but given her light complexion, investigators are working off the theory she was either white or Hispanic. She is believed to have been 17 to 40 years of age. She stood anywhere from 4’11” to 5’4″ and weighed approximately 120 to 140 pounds. She wore her dark brown hair short, and she is noted as having brown eyes. Her ears were pierced.
When found, she was only wearing a blood-stained bra. However, other items of clothing were found within the suitcase, including a denim skirt; a white headband; and a light blue, long-sleeved Theo-brand denim shirt with a collar. The shirt had copper-coloured buttons that were done up, and it also featured a 3″ white band across the chest and back, which had within it more blue stripes. The shirt also had bloodstains on the shoulders and along the neckline.
The clothing found in Bucks County were a mix of items. Along with a small black sweater, investigators found a Lee-brand denim skirt; a Bonjour-brand denim jacket with a red border at the bottom; and a Jet-brand sweater that was blue, black and pink in colour and featured images of Minnie and Mickey Mouse. A white blouse with black and gold buttons was also located near the legs.
As aforementioned, fitted bedsheets and a quilt were also found within the suitcase. The suitcase itself was made of a maroon leather grain vinyl. It had three buckles and a zipper, with small wheels on the bottom. The quilt had a “modern” green, black and light blue design set against a white background, while the bedsheets had bloodstains on them. All the items were mass-produced and sold at K-Mart stores across the United States.
When investigators ran her fingerprints, they came up empty. This has led them to believe she may not have been from the Philadelphia area and possibly not from the United States. They are certain she was killed elsewhere and her remains dumped where they were found.
1) Holly Anne Painter, who went missing from East York, Ontario, Canada on June 26, 1995.
2) Jodi Sue Huisentruit, who went missing from Mason City, Iowa on June 27, 1995.
3) Tina Marie Finley, who went missing from Benewah County, Iowa on March 7, 1988.
4) Sarah May Estes, who went missing from Winchester, Kentucky in January 1987. She was located in Mississippi in March 2019, after she contacted her family while hospitalized with cancer.
5) Nicole Russo, who went missing from Brick, New Jersey on March 12, 1995.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Jane Doe’s DNA, dentals and fingerprints are available for comparison.
Those with information regarding the identity of Jane Doe are asked to contact the Pennsylvania State Police at either 610-268-2022 or 717-299-7650.
Image Credit: The Doe Network