Ventura County Jane Doe

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DISCOVERY:

At 12:40pm on July 18, 1980, police were called to Westlake High School at 100 North Lakeview Canyon Road in Westlake Village, Ventura County, California. Upon arrival, they were directed toward the rear parking lot, where they came upon the body of a deceased pregnant female lying at the edge of the lot, near the foot of a hillside.

Evidence found at the scene suggests Jane Doe was killed at another location before being brought to the high school. There was a trail of blood leading to where she was found, indicating she’d been dragged from a vehicle.

AUTOPSY:

It was determine upon the body being autopsied that Jane Doe had died approximately 12 hours prior to being found.

The cause of death was deemed to be the result of stabbing and strangulation, as she’d suffered approximately 16 stab wounds to her chest, buttocks, stomach and abdomen. There was also evidence of rape.

INVESTIGATION:

In 2015, DNA results from scrapings taken from her clothing and under her fingernails linked her and another Jane Doe (later identified as Shirley Soosay) to 63-year-old Wilson Chouest. At the time the link was made, he was serving a life sentence in state prison for the kidnapping, robbery and rape of one woman, and for the kidnapping and robbery of another.

The murders occurred within three days of each other, but Chouest did not know the victims. He did, however, have a history of violence toward women, with his crimes largely occurring between 1977 and 1980.

He was charged with the murders of both Jane Does, as well as the Ventura victim’s unborn son. A jury found him guilty in May 2018 for the murders of the women, but were unable to convict him of murder in the fetus’ death. This was because of legal changes that occurred in 1994.

In 2015, the DNA Doe Project took on Jane Doe’s case. Analysis of her DNA show her ancestry is 60% Native on her mother’s side, while her father was likely Hispanic. Small amounts of Sub-Saharan African and Asian traits were also observed. The father of her unborn child is from Choluteca, Honduras, and either he or one of his parents has the surname “Baca”. She also appears to have a grandparent several generations back from Ireland or England.

The DNA Doe Project was able to identified the surnames of distant cousins from various regions in the United States and Central America. They are as follows:

California – “Rios”, “Uribes”, “Soto”, “Lara”, “Romero”

Central Mexico – “Aguirre”, “Alvarez”, “Arriaga”, “Ayala”, “Bañuelos”, “Chavez”, “Escobedo”, “Esquivel”, “Perez”, “Rubio”, “Sustaita”, “Zavala”

Guatamala – “Lopez”

Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado – “Cordova”, “Gallegos”, “Martin-Serrano”, “Martinez”, “Montoya”, “Peralta”, “Romero”

Southern Texas (between San Antonio and Brownsville) and Northeastern Mexico – “Bermea”, “Cantu”, “Casares”, “DeLeon”, “Garcia”, “Garza”, “Gonzalez”, “Guerra-Canamar”, “Guevara”, “Leal”, “Quintanilla”, “Robles”, “Talamantes”, “Tijerina”, “Treviño”, “Vela”, “Villarreal”, “Zuñiga”

Investigators tried to identify Jane Doe through her unborn child. Parental DNA was taken, but a match could not be found in CODIS.

DETAILS:

The deceased is described as a Native American and Hispanic female, with small amounts of Sub-Saharan and Asian ancestry. She was likely between the ages 15 and 30, weighed approximately 110 to 115 pounds, and stood between 5’1″ and 5’3″. She had shoulder-length black hair with bleached tips, and brown eyes. Her teeth showed evidence of extensive dental work, and two of them had signs of messiah lingual rotation.

When found, Jane Doe was wearing a white pullover short-sleeve blouse, red corduroy pants, a black bra and white underwear. A pair of black high-heeled, open-toed shoes were found near the body. She had red nail polish on her fingernails and toenails, and heavy mascara applied to her eyelashes. Her eyebrows had been shaved and penciled in 1/4″ over their natural placement.

Along with having her ears pierced, she had a number of distinguishing marks. These include a mole on the back of her left hand, below her index finger; two vaccination scars on her upper left arm; small ovoid scarring on her left knee; a scar on her right buttock; and other birthmarks on her face.

When found, Jane Doe was approximately four-to-five months pregnant. Her unborn child, a son, appeared well-nourished, and there had been “adequate” prenatal care. She had an episiotomy scar, meaning she’d previously been pregnant.

Investigators believe she may have been from Kern, Ventura, Tulare or Los Angeles counties, or possibly the San Fernando Valley. Given the information regarding her killer and evidence gathered during the investigation, it is theorized she may have been hitchhiking near the College of Sequoias in Visalia, California.

RULE OUTS:

1) Melanie Dee Flynn, who went missing from Lexington, Kentucky on January 25, 1977.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Jane Doe’s DNA, fingerprints and dentals are available for comparison.

Those with information regarding the identity of Jane Doe are asked to contact the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office at 805-348-4735, or its Major Crimes Investigations unit at either 805-383-8704 or 805-654-9511. Tips can also be called into the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office at 805-641-4400.

Image Credit: Carl Koppelman/NCMEC

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