Columbia County detectives reopen 1982 cold case - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Columbia County detectives reopen 1982 cold case

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TOWN OF CALEDONIA (WKOW) -- Columbia County investigators are once again asking the public for help to identify the victim and suspect in a decades-old murder.

Sheriff Dennis Richards tells 27 News he's hoping new technology and more media attention will bring new details forward about the death of an unidentified woman.

In 1982, 27 News reported a young man found a badly decomposed body just off Petra Road in the town of Caledonia. It's mostly rural farmland with little traffic, so the remains may have been there for at least a year before being discovered.

An investigation determined the woman died from blunt force trauma to the head. She had multiple skull fractures.

After five years of investigation, including sending the skull to a crime lab in Wyoming, a UW anthropologist and a forensic dentist's examinations of the remains, and a crude facial reconstruction sent out to the public, authorities ended up burying their Jane Doe with few answers in September 1987.

The case has remained cold until last month, when Jane Doe's remains were exhumed and sent to the FBI Crime Laboratory in Quantico, VA. Richards says he hopes DNA technology and a review of a national missing persons list can help find her identity.

Richards says it's possible she and her killer were not from our area.

"Back then and so far as of now, we have no reason to believe that incident took place where the body was found. It's possible she was dropped off there," Richards tells 27 News. "We feel quite comfortable that she's nobody from the area because with the several years of attempts that were put out [and] because she was not buried until September 1, 1987 and nobody from the area had reported any missing people or a person that would match her description."

Richards says because the location where the remains were found is so close to I-90/94, it's possible someone just passing through left her body where they believed no one would find it.

Jane Doe is described as a white female between the ages of 45 and 60. She's about five and a half feet tall and had likely given birth at some point in her lifetime.

Columbia County investigators have shared an alert with law enforcement agencies across the state and are now waiting for results from the FBI lab. Richards asks anyone with information to contact Columbia County Sheriff's Office at (608) 742-4166.


COLUMBIA COUNTY (WKOW) -- The Columbia County Sheriff's Department has re-opened a 1982 homicide investigation.

The say a woman was found badly decomposed along a rural Columbia County road in the township of Caledonia back in 1982.

Police say she died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The investigation back then turned up no information on who she was, and she was buried by Columbia County officials in 1987 as a Jane Doe.

She remained buried until April 21st, when Columbia County Detectives exhumed her remains.

Detectives are working with the FBI Crime Lab in Quantico, VA in hopes of using new DNA technology to compare her against missing persons who are currently in the Combined DNA Index System.

An anthropologist's review of the remains describes the victim as a female standing 5'5 1/2'' to 5'6 1/2'', she was likely Caucasian, with an age range from 45-60's.

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