Midstate Mysteries: The girl with the turquoise jewelry - abc27 WHTM

Midstate Mysteries: The girl with the turquoise jewelry

Posted: Updated:

Perry County Coroner Mike Shalonis keeps a sketch of an unidentified young woman hanging on the wall of his office.

"It's just a reminder that's somebody's out there," he said. "Their loved one is missing."

It's a reminder to never forget about the mysterious girl, the only unidentified body currently in the Perry County morgue.

It was the summer of 1979 when a stone mason collecting rocks along the Juniata River made the grisly discovery: the skeletal remains lying on the shore not far from Route 322 in Watts Township.

"It's just a mystery as to how she got here," Shalonis said. "I mean, she could have come from anywhere."

Investigators believe her remains had been there for a few months, but they remained optimistic. Although the body was badly decomposed, her clothing, shoes and several pieces of turquoise jewelry were intact.

But no one ever recognized it. No one ever identified her.

The woman, known as Jane Doe, was buried a few weeks after her body was discovered. Years and years went by. It wasn't until 2008 that her body was exhumed so investigators could collect a sample of her DNA. It has since been placed in several national databases with no luck.

"We've eliminated probably 50 to 60 missing females from that time period and especially the ones that were missing from Pennsylvania," said lead investigator Trooper Donald Chewning. "They're not really a match with her."

Chewning, who was assigned to the case in 2007, admits there are few certainties.

He does know the girl with the turquoise jewelry was white, blonde, between 15 and 30-years-old, and somewhere between 5'2" and 5'9" tall. And he believes her jewelry, some of it handmade, came from the Southwest.

"Indian jewelry was very popular at the time and she had on jewelry that's been identified from the New Mexico/Arizona region," Chewning said.

Was the girl from that region as well? And how was she killed? There was no obvious sign of trauma. Right now, her death is only listed as "suspicious."

Despite three decades and the mountain of unanswered questions, investigators said their mission remains the same: they want to identify the girl with the turquoise jewelry and send her home to finally rest in peace.

"We're at a point where we need to identify her to get her back to her family," Chewning said.

"As long as I'm coroner, she'll be on the wall," Shalonis said of the sketch. "And probably whoever takes over for me is going to have her somewhere."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is currently working on a facial reconstruction based on the girl's skull. State police hope to have that reconstruction in the next few weeks.

If anyone has any information about this case, they're asked to contact Trooper Donald Chewning at 717-567-3110 or Perry County Crime Stoppers at 1-866-210-8477.

Powered by WorldNow