Man recounts finding body in 1967 cold case

Ottawa County

BLENDON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Black and white newspaper clippings from 53 years ago talk about the body found by a father out pheasant hunting with his son.

They were hunting in a field near 52nd Avenue and Fillmore Street south of Allendale on Oct. 20, 1967 when they came across the body.

“Yeah, that was a spot that we never hunted before,” Dan Reister, who was 14 when he and his father found the body, recalled.

Now 68, he said he hadn’t thought about that day over the last five decades — until now.

“Yeah, the smell. Because I had to go check the smell out. Excuse me,” Resiter said as the emotions of that day suddenly caught up with him.

Blendon Township Cemetery, where the remains of an unidentified 1967 homicide victim were exhumed on July 29, 2020.

Crews on Wednesday exhumed the remains of the young woman, who was beaten and strangled to death.

Because she was never identified, she was buried in an unmarked grave in the Blendon Township Cemetery. Ottawa County’s cold case team detectives dubbed her Jenny while they work to learn her real name.

“The vault was extracted from the ground, taken back to a spot where they are under analysis now,” Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Mark Bennett said.

Anthropologists from Michigan State University are examining the remains and extracting DNA. The cold case team hopes that DNA will allow the woman to be identified through genealogy testing — using public ancestry databases to find anyone related to her.

“The victim of this crime had absolutely no headstone, no markings in the ground. So, at least we want to provide those types of amenities to the victim,” Bennett said.

Detectives also hope to find out more about her death that can push their investigation forward. They warn it could take months before they have any more information.

“As an investigator, there’s a level of excitement that you can maybe further the case,” Bennett said. “Get an ID of the victim, maybe work to the ends of solving the case.”

Solving the case is one priority. Putting a name to the victim and perhaps giving a family the chance to get answers to questions they may have given up on years ago is another.

“It would be nice,” Reister said. “Somebody loved her.”

A facial reconstruction of the unidentified remains of a young woman whose body was found in Blendon Township on Oct. 20, 1976. (Courtesy the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)

Jenny is described as a Black woman between the ages of 16 and 22, standing about 5-foot-7 and weighing less than 100 pounds. She died of blunt force trauma to the head and manual strangulation. There is little evidence in the case, with only a report of an AMC Rambler seen driving away from the scene.

Anyone with information about who she may be or what happened to her is asked to call Silent Observer at 877.887.4536.

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