Florida investigators hope DNA evidence will help ID victim in 1984 'Jane Doe' cold case

Just past the corner of Frank and Liberty Streets in Orange County sits the site of a nearly 40-year murder mystery.

On November 9, 1984, a teenager and his parents called 911. A stench caught their attention, and when the teen took a closer look, he realized it was coming from a body.

"She was still recognizable, in terms they were able to identify she was female," said Cpl. Dave Nutting, with the Orange County Cold Case team. 

Investigators could not figure out much more. She was a Black woman. Investigators believe she was shot and then her body was most likely dumped. For now, she’s Jane Doe. She had no identification on her. With the help of DNA, the Cold Case team hopes to identify her. They’re using DNA from the clothing she was wrapped in, and her body.

The jacket was taken to the lab, where forensic biologists use a device that works like a vacuum.


"It simultaneously does a rinse solution while it vacuums up any embedded DNA that may be leftover on the material," explained forensic biologist Elise Servi. 

The goal of the device is to get as much DNA as possible from the inside of the clothing. The DNA is then sent to another lab to be analyzed.

The team uploads the DNA into genealogy databases. From there, they track down distant relatives.

"Detectives from Orange County have traveled as far away as New York," said Cpl. Nutting, "…talking to family members who’ve been identified through genealogy databases, getting DNA from family members, submitting those into databases to try to figure out who the victim is."

A decades-old murder mystery coming down to strands of genetic material. It is physically microscopic but figuratively huge in determining who the woman was, and how she ended up off a dirt road in Orange County.