Woman named in 1988 Michigan cold case; manner of death still unclear

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COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WNDU) - It's a break in the 1988 cold case of a woman found dead near a Michigan interstate. State police now know her name but still can't say how she died.

On Monday, detectives identified Marcia Kaylynn Bateman to the media. But for decades they called her “I-196 Jane”.

On Oct. 12, 1988, more than 31 years ago, police say the 28-year-old woman's body was found near the intersection of Interstate 196 and County Road 378 in Covert Township, Van Buren County.

“We’re really trying to find out how Bateman made it to Michigan and find anybody that may have known her back in the day," said Detective Sgt. Scott Ernstes from the Michigan State Police Paw Paw Post.

Investigators are calling the discovery of her body a “suspicious death,” and there are no suspects.

“Now that we know who she is, that’s where we’re going to start," Ernstes said. "Who knew the victim? Who she was hanging around, what she was up to. And that, a lot of times, leads us to what happened to her.”

Police say Bateman's family reported her missing in August 1988. She often hitchhiked and was also known to partake in prostitution. However, Bateman had no ties to Michigan or the Midwest. She was from Oklahoma City.

“So, that put her in contact with a lot of people that could potentially have caused something ill to happen to her," Ernstes said.

New technology helped police identify Bateman. In late 2018, investigators began utilizing genealogy DNA. Through various partnerships, detectives confirmed her identity this month.

In April 2019, Paw Paw detectives partnered with BODE Laboratories for the DNA processing and received a grant from Kalamazoo Mortgage to pay the processing fees.

In July 2019, BODE Laboratories had the DNA results. Detectives then partnered with the nonprofit DNA Doe Project.

By August 2019, the DNA Doe Project alerted detectives that they had leads on the potential identity of I-196 Jane.

This month, after a separate confirmation process, Paw Paw detectives were assured that Jane was Bateman.

Now, Bateman's family is once again relying on investigators to figure out how she got to Michigan and why her body was found here.

Do you remember anything suspicious from the summer 1988? If so and you were in the area of I-196 and County Road 378 or you were camping at nearby locations of Covert Campground or South Haven State Park/Campground, police need to hear from you.

You can call the Michigan State Police Tip Line at 844-642-8384 or email them at MSP-51TIPS@michigan.gov.