Highland Park Jane Doe (1996)

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DISCOVERY:

In the early hours of May 20, 1996, the body of a deceased female was discovered in an alley behind the home at 387 Cortland Street in Highland Park, Wayne County, Michigan. When police canvassed the area, they learnt that neighbours had heard a gunshot during the night. Unfortunately, no one saw what happened.

The area where the deceased was found is located near the Lodge Freeway, which runs through Detroit and provides access to I-75. This has led some to theorize she may have been travelling with her killer at the time of her death.

AUTOPSY:

Jane Doe’s body was brought to the medical examiner’s office, where it was determined her death was the result of a homicide. She’d been shot once in the neck at point-blank range with a shotgun.

DETAILS:

The deceased is described as a biracial (African-American and Caucasian) female between the ages of 15 and 25. She stood at 5’3″ and weighed 191 pounds. She had shoulder-length curly hair that was dark brown in colour with a reddish tint. At the time of her death, she’d had it in a ponytail, which was fastened with a white bow. Her eyes were brown.

When found, Jane Doe was wearing a white shirt with yellow smiley faces and red lip prints; a white JXP Designs skirt; a white lace bra; black tennis shoes with white trim, size 8.5; white socks; and a gold-tone women’s wristwatch in the shape of a teddy bear, with a brown leather band. Her fingernails were long and painted purple, and her toenails were covered in pink polish. Given her attire, which one detective described as that of “a five-year-old”, there’s speculation she may have had a disability and been placed in foster care.

Wristwatch found with Jane Doe’s body. (Image Credit: NamUs)

The deceased had numerous facial freckles, and an old horizontal scar was noted below her right kneecap, approximately 4cm in length. She had three dental fillings and some of her teeth had untreated decay. She had type-O blood, and it’s thought she might have smoked cigarettes.

According to the medical examiner, she had pelvic inflammatory disease, which may have resulted from a sexually transmitted disease. Given the severity of symptoms differs from person to person, it’s possible Jane Doe may not have been aware she had it.

In October 2015, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children funded the exhumation of the deceased’s remains from an unmarked grave in a Canton Township cemetery. DNA was successfully obtained.

RULE OUTS:

1) Crystal Lynn Ortega, who went missing from Troup, Texas on August 8, 1995.

2) Jahzeel Collazo-Rios, who went missing from Grand Rapids, Michigan on October 4, 1995.

3) Misty Dawn Ortega, who went missing from Troup, Texas on August 8, 1995.

4) Taranika Nichelle Raymond, who went missing from New Orleans, Louisiana on November 13, 1995.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

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

Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

Those with information regarding the identity of Jane Doe are asked to contact the Highland Police Department at either 313-852-7338 or 313-252-0050. Tips can also be called into the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office at 313-318-8516, FBI ViCAP at 1-800-634-4097 and the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office at 313-833-2504.

Image Credit: NCMEC/Jane Wankmiller

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