IRONTON, Ohio – Investigators in Lawrence County, Ohio, say they have been able to identify a woman’s body found in a cistern in Chesapeake in 1981.
According to a news release from the Lawrence County Coroner's Office, the 38-year mystery was solved using DNA identification.
A press conference is scheduled for Monday, July 29 at the Bowman Auditorium on Ohio University’s Southern Campus at 1804 Liberty Ave. in Ironton, during which involved agencies will release the identification and age of the woman. They will also give updates on the investigation process used to make the identification, as well as answer questions from the media.
Involved agencies that will attend the press conference include the Lawrence County Coroner’s Office, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office and the DNA Doe Project.
According to the DNA Doe Project’s website, “Belle in the Well,” aka Chesapeake Jane Doe, is the name given to a Jane Doe who was found in a cistern, or what some called a rural well, in Windsor Township in Lawrence County, Ohio, on April 22, 1981.
A cistern is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water, and are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings.
The woman was found weighted down by a rope around her neck that was tied to a cinder block. She had been strangled.
Based on the absence of her 12-year-old molars and some evidence of gum recession, Belle’s age was estimated at between 30-60 years old. She had a noticeable overbite. She was 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed about 140 pounds.
The woman was found wearing a pair of grey flannel pants, and a lightweight shirt under a gray pullover. She also wore a red cable-knit cardigan sweater, with rubber bands around her wrists. The only items found on her body were the key to a locker at a Greyhound terminal in Huntington, a bus ticket, a pay stub and a Jerry Falwell commemorative coin.
Authorities said those leads had not been useful in identifying the woman. Because of the advanced state of decomposition, her facial features were not recognizable and no fingerprints were available.
In May 2018, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lawrence County Coroner Dr. Benjamin Mack unveiled a new forensic facial reconstruction of the woman. The clay model was created by a forensic artist with the Attorney General's Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in an effort to identify the murder victim.
On Thursday, officials said there were able to get positive DNA identification by matching a sample of the woman’s DNA with DNA samples from the woman’s family members.
Officials did not say whether or not they may have any leads on the alleged murder suspect now that they have been to able to positively identify the woman.
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