Body found by hunter in Missouri in 1978 identified as missing Iowa girl

A decades-old case has been solved after detectives were able to identify a body found in 1978 as that of a missing Iowa teenager.

Police said the body of “Jane Doe of Lincoln County” was found in 1978. The remains were found in the Mississippi River near Elsberry, Mo., the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said. Lincoln in a press release. An autopsy determined it was the body of a white woman, believed to be 30 to 40 years old, who died of drowning. The remains were determined to have been in the river for approximately four months, the sheriff’s office said.

Only a few details could be determined about the remains. The body found wore a cat’s eye ring and had a tattoo that appeared to say “Dee,” police said, but attempts to identify the remains at the time were unsuccessful. The remains were buried under a headstone that read “Lincoln County Jane Doe,” police said.

In 2009, details of the case were uploaded to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

It was not until 2023 that authorities achieved a “crucial breakthrough”, police said. The buried remains were exhumed and analyzes conducted by anthropology professors and students at Southeast Missouri State University determined that the body was that of a teenage girl and not that of a middle-aged woman as initially estimated. . University participants sent samples of the remains to Othram, a private DNA laboratory, for DNA extraction. The company was able to use forensic-grade genome sequencing, which allows a DNA profile to be formed from just a small sample.

Genome sequencing allowed Othram’s genealogy team to “generate new leads” with a “complete genealogical profile”, police said. The Lincoln County Coroner’s Office contacted an individual who reported having a close family member matching the description of Jane Doe, who went missing in 1977. A family reference sample was collected.

Tests confirmed a match between the remains and the family member, allowing authorities to identify “Jane Doe of Lincoln County” as Helen Renee Groomes, a 15-year-old who was last seen in his hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa.

Hélène Renée Groomes.


Kevin Groomes told local NBC News affiliate KSDK that he was “overwhelmed with joy” that his sister’s remains had been identified. The exhumed remains have since been cremated.

He said his sister’s tattoo read “Del” and told KSDK he put it there. That was the name of his boyfriend at the time, he said.

“We are deeply grateful to the teams at SEMO, Othram and the Lincoln County Coroner’s Office for their invaluable contributions, which proved instrumental in finally solving this decades-old mystery and bringing closure to a family in grieving,” the Lincoln County Sheriff said. Rick Harrell.

An investigation into Groomes’ disappearance and death is ongoing, the sheriff’s office said.


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