Boulder County's famed "Jane Doe" -- the homicide victim whose identity has been a mystery for more than five decades -- was identified Wednesday by the sheriff as a woman who went missing from Arizona.
Sheriff Joe Pelle announced that the woman's identity has been confirmed as Dorothy Gay Howard, who was reported missing from Phoenix, Ariz., in March 1954. She was 18 at the time of her disappearance.
The Sheriff's Office received lab results that showed a match between Howard's DNA and samples provided by a long-lost sister, confirming the family's suspicion that their relative, known as "Dot," was Boulder's "Jane Doe." Detectives think the identification will help them finish piecing together the murder case.
Howard's naked and battered body was discovered along the banks of Boulder Creek -- near Boulder Falls, eight miles west of Boulder -- on April 8, 1954.
Investigators, along with local historian and Camera columnist Silvia Pettem, have, for years, doggedly tried to identify the woman -- exhuming her body from her grave and publicizing an artist's re-creation of "Jane Doe's" face. Her reconstructed skull provided a DNA profile.
The case was featured in an episode of "America's Most Wanted."
Meanwhile, Howard's great-niece had been following Pettem's Web site, boulderjanedoe.com, but put her suspicions aside that "Jane Doe" could be her great-aunt because investigators had initially believed the woman was Katharine Farrand Dyer.
Last month, Dyer was discovered alive, living in an assisted living center in Australia. That discovery prompted Howard's great-niece to come forward with information about Howard and her disappearance. The younger sister of Howard provided a DNA sample that was then compared against "Jane Doe's" profile, establishing a match.
"I'm looking forward to learning more about her," Pettem said. "After all of these years, I feel like I know her. But to the family, I'm a stranger."
Pettem is the author of the book "Someone's Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe," which chronicles her journey to identify the young woman.
Sheriff Pelle commended Pettem's skills as a researcher and her persistence in pushing the investigation forward, while complimenting Detective Steve Ainsworth, who has pursued and documented every lead in the case.
Together, they built a compelling circumstantial case for naming serial killer Harvey Glatman -- who was executed in California in 1959 for the murder of three other women -- as Howard's murderer.
"With her identification, a major piece of the puzzle has been added," Ainsworth said in a news release. "I'm confident now that we will be able to find the missing links that will tie this all together."
The Sheriff's Office is not releasing information about Howard's family because they've requested privacy.
Pettem said that when she started on the quest to discover the identity of "Jane Doe," her goal was to be able to return the remains to her family and put her name on the gravestone.
Howard's surviving family members have expressed their preference that she remain buried in Boulder's Columbia Cemetery. Pettem said she feels sadness for Howard's tragic death but relief that her family has closure.
Pettem, with Pelle's cooperation, has announced a fund drive to purchase a new headstone for Howard. Donations can be made to the "Jane Doe Fund," c/o the Boulder History Museum, 1206 Euclid Ave., Boulder, CO 80302.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.