Murdered and Unidentified

Planned on introducing a missing person from Mississippi today, but going with these two cases instead.  

Case #1: "Beth Doe," found murdered on 12/20/1976, White Haven, PA, NamUs UP# 8913

Playing on the banks of the Lehigh River at around 4:30 pm, then 14-year-old Kenneth Jumper, Jr. made a horrible discovery: the body of a young woman. Also found was her full-term unborn fetus.

The remains had been placed in three suitcases and evidently tossed below to the river from an Interstate bridge. The mother had been strangled and then shot.

Authorities were unable to determine name of the mother, and so "Beth Doe" and "Baby Jane Doe" were buried in a pauper's field not too far from where the remains were found.

Graves of Beth and Baby Jane Doe (Courtesy Norman Houser)

In 2007, police exhumed the body of "Beth Doe" in hopes that modern science would provide additional leads.

Sadly, the identity remains a mystery--the case is unsolved.

Case #2: Jan Cotta, Missing from Wall Township, NJ, 6/26/1973, NamUs #5978

Jan Cotta was 19-years old and pregnant when she was last seen on her family's property in New Jersey. Authorities initially considered her to have disappeared by choice, but have considered multiple theories over the years. Reportedly, she referred to the unnamed father (but did not name him) in a letter prior to vanishing, but police were unable to identify him.

The case of Jan Cotta has remained open for more than 40 years.

  • Females in the appropriate age range 

  • Ms. Cotta was characterized as having poor teeth, while Beth Doe had several fillings and some missing teeth

  • Both listed at 64 inches and having brown hair

  • Ms. Cotta was reportedly pregnant at the time of her disappearance, and though it was 3 years later, the found decedent was pregnant.

  • Both described as having a mole on the left side of face

  • Wall Township, NJ to that part of I-80 in PA is about 141 miles

  • Police believe the suitcases were tossed from the Westbound side of the bridge--consistent with someone driving away from NJ/NY

  • Authorities in the Cotta case believed her baby's father was from NY, and some of the body parts in PA were found wrapped in a NY newspaper

  • Though an article written after the unnamed woman's body was exhumed in 2007 theorizes that she may have been of Polish or Czech decent, the case details on her at the PA Missing site include that she is perhaps of Mediterranean heritage. "Cotta" originated in Spain and Portugal
  • Ms. Cotta's eyes are listed as blue, while Beth Doe's are shown as brown.

  • When comparing Ms. Cotta's provided picture and the various attempts to reconstruct Beth Doe, you don't get the overwhelming feeling of confidence that you are looking at the same person. I do understand that there are lots of variables in play though.
Has the possible connection between Jan Cotta and Beth Doe already been investigated?

Probably, but it is worth an email to the case managers--which I sent.

For other Missing Person Monday posts, go here

And thanks to Norman Houser for allowing me to use his photograph. You can read about his trip to the final resting place of Beth and Baby Jane Doe by going to his blog: The Pennsylvania Rambler


Bijoux said...

I have no knowledge (gladly) about how bodies decompose, so I won't comment on the similarities. I think contacting Cotta's high school friends would be beneficial. Girls can't keep boyfriend business to themselves, so I believe someone knows who he was.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

It's certainly an interesting theory.

ladyfi said...

What a sad picture of the graves.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, I wonder if they are the same person. It's either one tragedy or two.

Diane Estrella said...

I did not know the counterpart of John Doe was Beth Doe. So sad and so tragic.

messymimi said...

How sad. Especially if they are proven to be two different people, then there are still two devastated families awaiting some kind of ending.

Gail Dixon said...

Very, very interesting. These kinds of cases are fascinating to me, though incredibly sad. I'm always drawn to shows like 48 Hours or Investigation Discovery. I should have been a CSI!

WomanHonorThyself said...

hiya Slam..Tragic news today from Israel..please keep the faith for me and the rest of us...

Bob G. said...

Could be the same person (regarding the perp), but the same victim?
I concur the evidence presented would state they are not the same individual.
The newspaper would have been a decent lead, but time would have all but destroyed much of that after the fact.

Very good case.
Stay safe out there.

Mary Kirkland said...

That's very sad.

Jennifer Hillier said...

I can't even imagine how the families must feel. How do you even begin to get closure? So sad.

Brian Miller said...

worth an email for sure...hey if you provide a lead that helps imagine the relief of the families involved...

Carol Kilgore said...

I always think the investigators must have done 'whatever', but I know that's not always the case.

I also enjoyed the backstory on the found Houston baby.

Stephanie Faris said...

What's most disturbing about each of these cases is that it means someone got away with murder. Hopefully they've been jailed for something else and remain safe from society until they die.

Hilary said...

Good for you for sending that email. I hope you'll let us know if you hear further. What a sad couple of stories. Somewhat less so if it's the same story.