'Jane Doe' identified 55 years later

1:56 PM, Oct 29, 2009   |    comments
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The battered and naked body of the woman, known for 55 years as "Jane Doe," was found along the banks of Boulder Creek near Boulder Falls on April 8, 1954.

She was never identified at the time and her body was buried in Boulder's Columbia Cemetery under the name Jane Doe.

Investigators say they have confirmed the woman is Dorothy Gay Howard. She was reported missing from Phoenix, Ariz. in March 1954. She was 18 years old at the time.

Deputies were able to identify her through a DNA match with her long-lost sister.

Howard's great-niece has followed the "Jane Doe" saga online, but didn't think Jane Doe was her great-aunt because investigators were focusing on another likely candidate.

When that person was found alive and well and living in Australia last month, Howard's great-niece came forward and her family was able to provide the DNA sample.

There is a fund to give her a new headstone. Donations can be made to the "Jane Doe Fund," c/o the Boulder History Museum, 1206 Euclid Ave. Boulder, CO 80302.

Silvia Pettem wrote a book about Jane Doe which came out in September. She was a driving force in the search to find her true identity.

Pettem was at the Boulder Bookstore Wednesday night coincidently giving a talk about her book titled: "Someone's Daughter."

"I feel a mixture of sadness because of the tragedy of the murder. It's kind of brought it all back into the foreground but also a real sense of closure. We finally, after 55 years, know who this young woman was," Pettem said.

Pettem is a graduate of the University of Colorado and became interested in the case in 1996. Through her research she found the woman in Australia she thought might be Jane Doe.

"Instead of setting us back, that really made us refocus and get the word out that [she] was eliminated as the Jane Doe and that's what brought this family forward," Pettem said.

Pettem has contacted Howard's family and hopes to meet them in person.

To learn more about Pettem, visit www.silviapettem.com.

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