|August 20, 2009, Daily Camera, Woman Eyed as Boulder Jane Doe Found to be Alive, by Vanessa Miller
BOULDER, Colo. — A woman who was thought to be a long-unidentified homicide victim has turned up alive in Australia, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.
The development will allow the woman’s family to get in touch with her for the first time in more than 50 years, but it also means authorities do not have any clear leads on the identity of Boulder’s Jane Doe, a young woman whose beaten and partially decomposed body was found in Boulder Canyon in April 1954.
The body was never identified, and in 2004, Boulder historian, author and Camera columnist Silvia Pettem pushed for the cold case to be reopened.
She raised private money to have Jane Doe’s body exhumed and to have DNA testing and a facial reconstruction done. She also combed newspaper and police archives searching for young women who had gone missing in the months before the body was found by two college students.
Katharine Farrand Dyer was reported missing to Denver police in late March 1954, and she was considered the most likely candidate for Jane Doe.
But Dyer has now been found alive and well in Queensland, Australia, where she has been living since 1963, Pettem said. She uses the name Barbara Jones.
A woman who knows Jones, now 84, found an old address book belonging to her and a divorce certificate for Dyer. An Internet search led the woman to the Web site Pettem maintains for her research on the Jane Doe case.
Australian authorities have confirmed Barbara Jones is Dyer, police said. Using the address book, Pettem got in touch with Dyer’s brother and sister, who live in Virginia.
The sister said Dyer had personal reasons for leaving Denver abruptly in 1954, according to Pettem. Dyer briefly returned to Virginia, then moved to California, then Hawaii, and finally to Australia, where she remarried, had a daughter and became an Australian citizen.
Pettem said the woman’s family was shocked to discover that she had been considered a missing person and possible homicide victim.
Pettem had used documents to recreate Dyer’s life from 1948 to 1954, traveling to Flagstaff, Ariz., interviewing people who knew her there and finding an exact spot at the Grand Canyon were Dyer had her picture taken.
“Everyone wants to solve the case, and yet I was relieved to find out that this woman I had come to care about was still alive,” she said.
Pettem, who has a book coming out about the Jane Doe case, said she will continue to work with a team of researchers around the country to find young women who went missing in the early 1950s and rule out those for whom paper trails can be reconstructed after spring 1954.
Enough DNA was recovered from Jane Doe to put a complete profile into several missing-persons databases, and anyone who is related to a missing person from that time period can have his or her own DNA profile entered to look for a match.
Division Chief Phil West of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office called the development a case of “good news, bad news” and said there are now no viable candidates for Jane Doe.
Anyone with information about the case can call 303-441-3627.