Michiana Unsolved: Identifying Jane Doe in New Buffalo

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 12:19 PM EDT
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NEW BUFFALO, Mich. (WNDU) - Detectives in Michigan are still working to identify the body of a woman who washed ashore from Lake Michigan more than 35 years ago.

In this week’s Michiana Unsolved, Christine Karsten explains how new technology has sparked some new hope in identifying this Jane Doe.

Officers were called back on April 8, 1988, after a female’s body washed up on the New Buffalo breakwater of Lake Michigan. Originally, she was believed to be a white female.

“So, they started working on missing persons reports, trying to be able to identify who this was,” explains Lt. Kayla Miller with Michiana Crime Stoppers.

Unfortunately, their search remained unsuccessful for 35 years. Thanks to new technology, Michigan detectives decided to reopen this case and exhume this Jane Doe’s body in 2021.

“And with new DNA genome sequencing, data actually showed that the unidentified woman is an African American woman,” Lt. Miller says.

With this new information, detectives are now looking for a black female between the ages of 40 and 60 who went missing between 1987 and 1988.

“She may have been in the water for an extended period of time, which is what led them to initially believe that she was a white female,” Lt. Miller says.

Detectives believe she is about 5′5″ and weighs 175 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes. While the autopsy noted an absence of hair, it is believed to have been braided and she may have had a wig or hair extensions. They believe she had a hysterectomy, but noted no other scars, marks, or tattoos.

However, a forensic examination showed excellent dentistry. The exam indicated experimental work done about five years prior, leading them to believe she was in a higher socioeconomic group.

“Someone who perhaps cared tremendously about her appearance and had the finances and time to be able to make those things a priority,” Lt. Miller explains.

Now, police need your help filling in the missing pieces as they believe this individual could have come from anywhere.

“Her body may have been in the water for an extended period of time and with currents and just the turmoil of that water, it’s very possible she could have been miles away,” Lt. Miller says.

If you have any information, you are asked to contact Michiana Crime Stoppers by calling 574-288-STOP or submitting a tip online. Remember, every single tip is 100% anonymous.

“35 years! I am hoping we can find out who she is and if there is someone who has been missing their loved one, we can get them some answers,” Lt. Miller says.

Michiana Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward in this case. You are eligible for a cash reward up to $2,500 if you have any information that leads to the solving of this case or an arrest.

To watch Christine’s full interview with Lt. Miller, click on the video attached below: