Artist renderings of Sahara Sue

Sahara Sue

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DISCOVERY:

At around 9:00pm on August 14, 1979, the body of a partially-nude female was found lying facedown in the El Rancho parking lot in Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada. A pedestrian was walking through the vacant lot, located at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard South and Sahara Avenue, when they came upon the deceased.

A canvas of the area uncovered the unknown female had last been seen at a nearby liquor store with a White male. He’s described as being around 28 years old with a thin build, standing at around 5’11” and weighing 165 pounds. He had brown hair and a moustache. A sketch was published in a local newspaper in 1979, but no one came forward to say they knew the man, and he is still actively sought as a suspect in the case.

No forms of ID were found with the body, and the only items located at the scene were bottles of liquor and soda. Given the location at which she was found, the deceased was given the nickname “Sahara Sue”.

AUTOPSY:

An autopsy performed on the body found the deceased had likely died three to four hours prior, but could have been dead for as long as 24 hours. The cause of death was homicide by stabbing, with multiple stab wounds noted on her abdomen. There was no evidence of sexual assault.

A toxicology report found Jane Doe had a blood alcohol level of .238, indicating she was quite drunk around the time of her murder.

DETAILS:

Jane Doe is described as a White female between the ages of 15 and 25. She stood at 5’6″ and weighed approximately 103 pounds. Her light brown hair was wavy and shoulder-length, and she had brown eyes. Her nails were well-manicured at the time of her death, with red polish noted on her fingers and toes.

When found, she was wearing a light blue-green button-up linen shirt with red floral embroidery, sequins and a tie-up bottom; blue Levi’s hiphuggers; a plain white gold ring on her right index finger; and two white gold necklaces. One had a white gold chain and a clear plastic heart pendant with a rose design painted on it, while the other had a small silver cut-out leaf pendant with a small, round turquoise stone.

Her clothing suggested to investigators that she may have lived in Florida at some point during her life. The way she was found also led them to believe her killer had removed some of her clothes. While she wasn’t wearing shoes, evidence suggested that she tended to walk barefoot.

Of particular interest were her teeth – or lack thereof. She wore dentures, which had been put in shortly before her death. This was seen as unusual, especially for someone her age. While the mandibular denture was not recovered, the maxillary one was. It featured an open-face design with no flange over the four anterior teeth. The maxillary arch was rather small, and the denture measured 6.2cm at the tuberosity and 5cm long from incisor to post dam. The central incisor was 13mm long.

The denture was made from pink plastic. It was noted that the anterior teeth, in particular, were made from New Hue Biotone Plastic, mold IN, shade 61 or 62. The posterior teeth were 32 L a 33-degree tooth.

Jane Doe’s fingerprints were taken and uploaded to both local and national databases shortly after her discovery. Unfortunately, no matches were found. Her body was exhumed in 2003 for DNA extraction, but that too failed to secure a match to any known missing persons.

In 2015, forensic pollen testing was conducted on her clothing. It indicated she’d spent time in Central Valley or Napa Valley, California prior to her death. A year later, police announced she may have gone by the name “Shauna” or “Shawna”, and likely worked at either a Holiday Inn or a motel on Las Vegas Boulevard. She may have also lived in a trailer park on East Lake Mead Boulevard.

RULE OUTS:

1) Amy Billig, who went missing from Coconut Grove, Florida on March 5, 1974.

2) Deborah Rae Meyer, who went missing from Rawlins, Wyoming on August 4, 1974.

3) Debra Theresa Pscholka, who went missing from Corona, California on June 5, 1971.

4) Diane Genice Dye, who went missing from San Jose, California on July 30, 1979.

5) Diana Lynn Harris, who went missing from Big Pine Key, Florida on July 15, 1981.

6) Hazel Alice Cross, who went missing Toledo, Ohio on May 1, 1973.

7) Lisa Jane Borden, who went missing from Lodi, California on October 10, 1979.

8) Mary Frances Gregory, who went missing from Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada on February 18, 1978.

9) Paulette Susan Laster, who went missing from Davison, Michigan on May 5, 1979. In January 2014, she was identified as the victim of a fatal hit-and-run that occurred in Houston, Texas in 1980.

10) Rebecca Jean Dunn, who went missing from San Diego, California on April 1, 1979.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

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

Those with information regarding the identity of Jane Doe are asked to contact the Las Vegas Metro Police Department at 702-828-3111 or the Cold Case Unit’s hotline at 702-828-8973. Tips can also be called into the Clark County Coroner’s Office at either 702-455-6649 or 702-455-3210.

Image Credit: NCMEC/Carl Koppelman

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