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Jane Doe/s murder remains a mystery

Jane Doe/s murder remains a mystery

9/5/04 An off-duty sheriff/s deputy found her, a stroke of luck in a case marked with few of them.

She lay a few feet down an embankment, her body dragged there across dust and scrub brush and dumped behind a cluster of rocks within sight of old Highway 1.

Sheriff/s investigators believe she was killed there, on that lonely stretch of what was once the Grefco quarry road. She was stabbed numerous times, the knife wounds a mute testament to the rage that ended her life.

"There was an abundance of blood at the scene," said Lt. Jeff Klapakis, an investigator with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff/s Department. "She was probably stabbed 15 times or more."

The Lompoc Record announced the gruesome discovery across most of the front page on August 4, 1969: "Murder probed as girl/s body found in remote area."

Looking back on the news coverage of the day, it/s clear that investigators expected to swiftly identify the victim. The killer, though, left few clues for police. So her identity, like that of her killer, remains a mystery. The ledger at the Lompoc Evergreen Cemetery lists her simply as Jane Doe.

Little is known about Jane Doe. She was a young woman, perhaps a hippie, between 16 and 24 years old. She was a few inches taller than five feet, about 125 pounds, with shoulder-length brown hair dyed a reddish blonde. She wore sandals, a blue blouse and homemade white pants decorated with a blue floral print.

Investigators followed up what few leads they had. Dirt samples were taken from the scene. The origins of her clothing were traced. A dentist examined her teeth and noted 19 fillings done within the year or two preceding her death. Based on her dental work, investigators surmised that she may have come from abroad. Fingerprints were submitted to Interpol, an international clearinghouse for law enforcement. Witnesses came forward and were interviewed, but no hard evidence surfaced.

"Based on the technology and the training they had back then," Klapakis says, "the investigators did an excellent job."

One promising witness account placed Jane Doe at Gaviota state beach in the days before her murder. Investigators pursued that lead, but it too led nowhere.

It/s possible that more widespread media coverage of the case might have turned up additional leads, but a savage murder in Los Angeles soon grabbed the world/s attention. In the wake of that new murder, Jane Doe would fade from the headlines, and the name Charles Manson would become a household word.

According to Klapakis, investigators looked at the possibility of a connection between Jane Doe and Manson and his followers. The method of Jane Doe/s death was similar to that of the Tate-LaBianca murders, and members of the Manson "family" had been seen in the Lompoc area earlier that year.

"That (connection) was certainly something they were looking at, at the time," said Klapakis. However, no link was established, and investigators were left with little else to go on.

Jane Doe was buried in Lompoc Cemetery on Aug. 14, 1969, with little fanfare and in an unmarked grave.

In the 35 years since the murder, science has given police new tools. DNA testing, hair and fiber analysis and other techniques that were unimaginable in 1969 are now commonplace.

With the advent of these new investigative tools, it/s become common for investigators to bring technology to bear on unsolved "cold cases." Unfortunately, the best tools of modern science don/t come cheaply, and Jane Doe isn/t the only cold case in the sheriff/s files.

A chance conversation in 2000 brought best-selling mystery novelist Sue Grafton, of Santa Barbara, into the story and gave detectives a chance to re-examine Jane Doe/s murder. Without that meeting, Klapakis said, the story probably would have ended here.

But the conversation, between a retired pathologist and a world-famous writer, would write a different next chapter for Jane Doe.

Retired pathologist Dr. Robert Failing worked for many years for the Santa Barbara County coroner. He/d performed the autopsy on Jane Doe, and had always been surprised she/d never been identified. At a party, Failing found himself discussing the case with Grafton, who used it as the basis for her next novel, "Q is for Quarry."

"As a novelist, I/ve been offered countless plot ideas," Grafton wrote in an author/s note at the end of that book. "This idea took root."

Grafton said she was given an extraordinary level of help by the sheriff/s department. She was allowed to read old case files. She saw the clothes Jane Doe was wearing at the time of the murder, and a lock of her hair.

"These items personalized her story for me," Grafton said from her Santa Barbara home. "The fact that she has remained unidentified after all these years only made her death seem more poignant."

Grafton said her interest in the case sparked law enforcement/s interest in revisiting the case. Detectives wondered if modern forensic science might yield new clues and speculated that new facial reconstruction techniques might help give Jane Doe her name back.

To do that, they would have to exhume the body. But there was a problem.

"Her interest came at a time when law enforcement was having budget crunches statewide," said retired Detective Sgt. Bill Turner. "Exhumation is an expensive process. There wasn/t any extra investigative money in the budget."

Turner estimated that the exhumation, forensic analysis and re-interment cost about ,5,000.

Grafton proposed an extraordinary solution to the problem 7 she offered to underwrite the cost of the project. Turner and his partner, now-retired Commander Bruce Correll, discussed her unusual proposal with then-Sheriff Jim Thomas.

"Sheriff Thomas said, /I/m willing to do the work if you think it/ll get the case moving again,/" recalled Turner. "Our whole purpose in this was to get her identified and get her back to her family."

With that decision, the wheels were set in motion.

Jane Doe/s story would soon be told again.

Correspondent Tammy Cravit can be contacted at tammy@wordsofwonder.net.

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