WEATHERLY, Pa. – Authorities on Tuesday exhumed the body of a pregnant woman whose dismembered remains were stuffed in suitcases and tossed off a bridge more than 30 years ago, hoping DNA and other new techniques will help identify her.
The victim, known only as "Beth Doe," was buried with her full-term fetus in a pauper's field in rural Carbon County.
"We knew this is one of the things we wanted to do, to apply today's technology," said Cpl. Thomas McAndrew, a state police detective who took over the case two years ago.
The woman, who was in her late teens or early 20s, was strangled, shot and dismembered, her remains stuffed into three suitcases that were flung off a bridge along Interstate 80 near White Haven in December 1976.
The killer was probably aiming for the Lehigh River, 300 feet below, but missed. Two of the suitcases broke open on impact.
Though the victim was estimated to have been dead less than 24 hours, police had few solid leads, and the case grew cold.
"The baby was full term, a healthy female. If that would have happened today, we think we would have probably gotten a solid tip," said McAndrew. "But it was just a different era."
A forensic pathologist, two forensic dentists and a forensic anthropologist will examine the remains. A forensic artist is working on an updated sketch of the victim that police expect to release soon.
The woman's DNA will be run through a missing persons database, although McAndrew acknowledged that a match is "a total, total long shot at this point" because a maternal relative of the victim would have had to submit a sample to the database.
Police have also re-interviewed Kenneth Jumper, who was a teenager when he found the body. He remembered every detail, "like he just found her yesterday," said Cpl. Shawn Williams, McAndrew's partner.