Jane Doe body exhumed in Faribault County - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Jane Doe body exhumed in Faribault County

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BLUE EARTH, Minn. (KTTC) -- Thirty-four years ago, a woman was brutally murdered in Faribault County. Investigators know what happened to her and who did it. But to this day, they don't know who she is. Now authorities have taken a rare step and exhumed her body from a Blue Earth cemetery to try and answer that question.

For decades, a woman has been buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Blue Earth without a name, only the one given to her by investigators 34 years ago. "At that time they didn't know what her name was, and we don't know what her name is today," said Faribault County Chief Deputy Scott Adams. "They named her Jane Doe at the time."

Her grave plot only identified by three words, "Unknown Caucasian female."

The story that we know about Jane Doe started in May of 1980, when she was picked up hitchhiking, brutally murdered and dumped in a ravine in Faribault County. "In May 30 of 1980, a farmer reported a body in the culvert near his property," Adams said. The case remained unsolved for years.

"Eight or nine years later a man confessed to killing her," Adams said. "He was a retired state trooper." Robert Leroy Nelson is still in prison paying for his crimes, but it is not his story that matters now. It is Jane Doe's, and there is a lot of her story we still don't know.

However, that is not for lack of trying. "We've had probably hundreds of thousands of leads," Adams said. "I've probably had hundreds of leads in the last eight years that I've had this case, and there's probably hundreds of thousands before that."

Technology has made leaps and bounds since the 1980s, so on Tuesday the Faribault County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension took a rare step and exhumed her body. They'll take new DNA samples from the remains to test against the leads they have amassed over the past 34 years and to run through the Combined DNA Index System. "To maybe compare her to somebody that's already out there, a family member that's already been convicted of something or that has their DNA on file," Adams said.

They'll also create a new image of what she looked like and perform another test that sounds straight out of a movie. "There's isotopic analysis that can tell us what part of the country or world that Jane Doe had spent her life for the first five years, ten years, and the last part of her life," Adams says. With that information, they'll be able to reach out to media in that part of the world.

Authorities are doing all of this to find out who she was and who she loved 34 years ago. "It really doesn't matter if it was a year old or 34-years-old," Adams said. "She deserves a name and a family is our theory and our goal."

Because so many businesses, labs and professionals have donated their time and services to this case, Adams said this entire process is only costing about $1,000, which will be paid for by the BCA.
The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner's Office, the Midwest Association of Forensic Scientists, the Blue Earth Police Department, Patton Funeral Home, Faribault County Attorney Troy Timmerman, G&S Drainage and Excavation, the Riverside Cemetery and a still unnamed forensic anthropologist are all assisting with the investigation and exhumation.
Adams said they hope to rebury Jane Doe in about 30 days, though they are allowed 60 under the court order.
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