Thursday, August 12, 2010

The "Jane Doe" of Boulder

On April 8, 1954, a woman's beaten body was found near Boulder creek. The body had been stripped of all clothing, jewelry, and anything that could aid in identifying it. Identification was also hampered by the fact that the girl's face had been badly torn by animals. The teeth were perfect and had never been worked on, shutting off positive identification by dental charts. The case eventually turned cold with very few leads.

For more than fifty years, her identity remained a mystery and her grave in Columbia cemetery had been marked as "Jane Doe".

In October of 2009, the mystery of her identity was finally solved:

Sheriff Joe Pelle announced that the woman's identity has been confirmed as Dorothy Gay Howard, who was reported missing from Phoenix, Arizona, in March 1954. She was 18at the time of her disappearance.

The Sheriff's Office received lab results that showed a match between Howard's DNA and samples provided by a long-lost sister, confirming the family's suspicion that their relative, known as "Dot," was Boulder's "Jane Doe." Detectives think the identification will help them finish piecing together the murder case.

Howard's naked and battered body was discovered along the banks of Boulder Creek, near Boulder Falls, eight miles west of Boulder, on April 8, 1954. The body had been placed in an airtight rubber bag to prevent further decomposition. This was to protect the body for up to two years however it was not until 2004 that Boulder County exhumed the body to obtain DNA samples. The wooden casket had collapsed over time, making the exhumation more difficult. A planned four-hour job turned into a two day process.

Due to the findings, her reconstructed skull provided a DNA profile.

Meanwhile, Howard's great-niece had been following Pettem's Web site,, but put her suspicions aside that "Jane Doe" could be her great-aunt because investigators had initially believed the woman was Katharine Farrand

Last month, Farrand was discovered alive, living in an assisted living center in Australia. That discovery prompted Howard's great-niece to come forward with information about Howard and her disappearance. The younger sister of Howard provided a DNA sample that was then compared against "Jane Doe's" profile, establishing a match.

Authorities eventually built a compelling circumstantial case for naming serial killer Harvey Glatman -- who was executed in California in 1959 for the murder of three other women -- as Howard's murderer.

Harvey Murray Glatman

Pettem is the author of the book "Someone's Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe," which chronicles her journey to identify the young woman.

Dorothy Gay Howard

Dorothy's grave in Columbia Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado. Her old "Jane Doe" marker was set next to the new one with her name.