Unidentified woman found murdered in Illinois 1976 had family in Alabama, new information shows


A woman found murdered in Illinois remains unidentified 43 years later, and those still working to find out who she was believe she may have once lived in Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Grundy County Coroner’s Office)

By Carol Robinson | [email protected]

The search to identify the remains of a woman found murdered in Illinois 43 years ago continues, and authorities on Monday released more information further indicating she may have lived in Alabama.

The woman’s body – known to investigators as Jane Seneca Doe – was discovered Oct. 2, 1976 by a local farmer and his granddaughter in a field on West U.S. Route 6, 1.4 miles east of the LaSalle county line in Erienna Towship in Seneca, Illinois, said Grundy County Deputy Chief Coroner Brandon Johnson.

The case was investigated by the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department and Grundy County Coroner’s Office who determined that the female had been shot elsewhere and placed in the field. The victim had no identification on her.

After exhausting all efforts to try to identify her, the woman was buried in an unmarked grave at the Braceville-Gardner Cemetery on Thanksgiving Day 1976.

For years, the case remained cold until Coroner John W. Callahan reopened the case in 2017, hoping to use modern-day forensic science techniques and technology to finally give the victim her name back, Johnson said.

Investigators combed through old case files, entered the female into numerous unidentified persons databases and released an artist-rendered-image to the public, with the hopes of receiving new information pertaining to the case.

On Dec. 18, 2018, coroner’s officials exhumed her remains in the course of using DNA enhancements to further their probe. A forensic odontologist also examined the remains and determined that the victim was between the ages of 15 and 27 when she was killed. In January 2019, the remains were sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in Fort Worth, Texas, using a grant from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) and Department of Justice.

In late-April, the lab developed a full female DNA profile and entered it into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS,) where the national database continues to search for a potential match to any missing persons nationwide.

Since May 2019, the Grundy County Coroner’s Office has been working closely with the DNA Doe Project, an organization that utilizes genetic genealogy to assist in identifying the unidentified.

Throughout the course of months of efforts, the DNA Doe Project has successfully located a close match to Jane Seneca Doe. Here is the new information released Monday:

-Jane Seneca Doe was likely born between 1948 and 1960 and would have been missing by October 1976.

-Her parents may have come from Selma, Alabama. One set of grandparents were from Selma, Alabama.

-One of her grandparent’s was likely named Calhoun. One great-grandparent may have been named Harris.

– Other possible areas her relatives reside: Dallas Co. or Wilcox Co., Alabama.

-At least one branch of the family moved to Ohio.

-She may have siblings who were unaware of her existence.

Anyone with any information, which may lead to the identity of Jane Seneca Doe, is urged to contact Deputy Chief Coroner Brandon Johnson of the Grundy County Coroner’s Office at 815-941-3359 or e-mail: [email protected]