|June 14, 2005, Denver Post, Jane Doe Mystery Getting a Review: A Sculptor has Used the Reconstruction of the Skull of a Woman Killed in 1954 in Boulder Canyon to Try to Put a Real Name to Her Face, by George Merritt
Boulder County - More than 50 years ago, someone beat a young woman, stripped her naked and tossed her off an embankment in Boulder Canyon, where she died.
Whoever killed her, he or she or they were likely the last to know the name of "Jane Doe."
At the time, in 1954, authorities launched an exhaustive search to learn who she was and who killed her. Residents attended a funeral for "the unidentified girl."
Since then, historians and local sleuths have kept on the trail of what became a deep-freeze cold case.
The mystery behind Jane Doe's death has garnered the attention of national media.
But until Monday, no one knew what she looked like.
"Ultimately, it is our hope that every aspect of this mystery could be solved," Sheriff Joe Pelle said. "At this point, though, it would be highly satisfactory to simply identify this young lady."
If the woman is identified, it will be due to the work of an eclectic group of local investigators, hobbyists, nationally renowned forensic pathologists and one persistent area historian.
A team of forensic experts, called the Vidocq Society, worked for about a year to re-create an image of the 17- to 20-year-old woman.
When her remains were exhumed last spring, investigators found that her skull had been crushed into fragments by the weight of the dirt. Members of the Philadelphia-based crime-solving team reconstructed the woman's skull, then molded a face over her bones.
Sculptor Frank Bender said he is confident the bust closely resembles the woman who spent her dying moments slumped over the rocks along Boulder Creek.
"I would not release it if I wasn't sure," said Bender, who soon will be heading to Egypt to work on sculpting likenesses of mummies. "All it takes is someone looking through a photo album and saying, 'Wait a second."'
But Jane Doe's bones would still be 6 feet deep if historian Sylvia Pettem had not participated in a "Meet the Spirits" event in 1996 at the Boulder cemetery where the woman was buried. That night, Pettem learned about the woman whose headstone read, "Jane Doe. April 1954. Age about 20 years."
She has worked to solve this caper ever since.
Pettem, along with the money she raised, helped to convince Pelle to reopen the case and unearth the woman's bones.
"I'm really thrilled about it," she said. "When I started this, I had no idea we could even get to where we were last year."
Pettem believes the woman was probably a runaway from a rural area. She said if the woman had brothers or sisters, they might still be alive.
"This is probably the last, best opportunity to identify her," she said.
For more information, go to www.boulderjanedoe.com [SINCE replace by this site, www.silviapettem.com]
Staff writer George Merritt can be reached at 720-929-0893 or email@example.com.