MSP: ‘DNA is perfect’ to help solve cold case

Southwest Michigan

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Who is 196 Jane? It’s a 30-year-old mystery. 

A woman’s body was found in southwest Michigan outside Covert in 1988, but police have never been able to identify her. 

A deer hunter found the skeletal remains on Oct. 12, 1988. At the time, investigators could only speculate what happened. But first, they had to know her identity, so investigators released artistic renderings to help people identify the woman.

But time passed, and 196 Jane, as she came to be known, was never identified. 

Now, Michigan State Police forensic artists have created a new batch of renderings hoping someone will recognize the woman and put a name to a face. Also, with the passage of time, technology has changed and new clues have come to light.

“DNA is the best. You know, used to be you’d use fingerprints,” explained Scott Ernstes, detective and sergeant with the Michigan State Police. “Well, she’s a skeleton, we don’t have fingerprints. We do have dental in there from an X-ray, but that requires the other side of the missing to have had dental X-rays on file or recovered them. 

“DNA is perfect, because it’s mom, dad, sister, brother, aunt, uncle. Anybody gets a swab, we send it, we profile it and it gets put in and searched automatically.”

Ernstes says 196 Jane had light brown or brownish hair, was around 5 feet tall and weighed about 100 pounds. Investigators believe 196 Jane was between 18 and 30 years old and had at least one child. 

They also determined she had a precursor to Osteoporosis, a rarity for someone her age.

“We’re hoping some family member out there can say, ‘Well, my aunt had something similar to that,’ and they will reach out,” Ernstes said.

Anyone with information on her identity is asked to contact Ernstes at 269.657.5551.

“Somebody cared about her,” said Ernstes. “Only reason I say that is evidence from the dental records is early on she had dental care. So, somebody took her to the dentist, somebody did some things, so somebody out there must have cared for her.”

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