Miami County investigators are hoping the widespread publicly about the identification using new technology of a Jane Doe whose body was found 37 years ago dumped in a ditch near Troy will now help lead them to her killer.
Sheriff Dave Duchak and those involved in the investigation and efforts to identify the young woman with braided hair wearing a buckskin jacket announced April 11 she was Marcia King, 21, of Arkansas. Her body was found April 24, 1981, off Greenlee Road west of Troy. Her death was attributed to strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head.
“Law enforcement never forgets. We had a long journey to get where we are today,” Duchak said in discussing how identification was made using new genetic genealogy tools by the nonprofit DNA Doe Project. The DNA confirmation was confirmed by the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab.
Among those who found Jane Doe was Greg Bridenbaugh, who farms in the Greenlee Road area. The news of King’s identification “kind of clears my mind,” he said following the announcement “The family now has closure. We have closure now,” he said.
King’s DNA was obtained from a blood sample that had been stored, unrefrigerated, since 1981; processed using advanced DNA techniques; and information uploaded into a public genealogy database. The local Jane Doe case was one of the first cases accepted by the California-based DNA Doe Project founded by Colleen Fitzpatrick and Margaret Press in 2017.
Press and Fitzpatrick attended the sheriff’s press conference along with Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a forensic anthropologist and biology professor at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, who had been involved in the investigation since 2010.
“The final lead that cracked this case was some groundbreaking DNA technology,” Murray said. Press and Fitzpatrick developed the process of applying genetic genealogy to the identification of unknown persons.
“We’ve several times done what others said couldn’t be done … We used a stored 1981 blood sample, still liquid,” Murray said. “A number of individuals told us we would not get DNA out of that blood.”
They did, though. The information was used in a genealogical data base to find relatives, and from those relatives the DNA was confirmed through forensic testing, she said.
Press and Fitzpatrick said their approach is like those used by adoptees in searches for birth families using Direct to Consumer DNA testing companies to obtain a list of potential relatives.
Press and Fitzpatrick don’t use the DTC companies, but collaborate with independent labs and bioinformatics experts to obtain similar data and use third-party DNA databases.
They thanked the Miami County investigators for having confidence in them, their new technique. “It is amazing to have a success story,” said Fitzpatrick.
More information on the DNA Doe Project is available at dnadoeproject.org.
Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Steve Lord said the death investigation was always open and intensifies with the identification. The focus now is on the last month of King’s life when she was known to be in the Pittsburgh and Louisville, Ky., areas.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's tip line at 937-440-3990 or leave tips at www.miamicountysheriff.org/contact-us-1.
Lord declined to discuss investigation specifics. The identification helps immensely in the investigation effort, including being able to speak with family of the victim. “They were hopeful that Marcia would come home, “ he said.
“We still have an active homicide investigation and we are going to be moving that forward,” Lord said.
Duchak said King’s family asked for privacy.
Lord said King’s mother had hoped for decades that her daughter would return, not moving or changing her phone number. With the news of the body’s identification, he said the King family was exploring replacing the Jane Doe headstone at Troy’s Riverside Cemetery with one including Marcia King’s name.