Missouri 'Jane Doe' identified 40 years to the day after homicide

Her death is being investigated as a homicide

The body of a woman found in southern Missouri in 1981 was identified Tuesday through a DNA match exactly 40 years to the day after she was found, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department said. 

Officers discovered Karen Kay Knippers’ body in a low river crossing on May 25, 1981, but she was unable to be identified and was buried as a "Jane Doe." 

Her death was being investigated as a homicide

Knippers’ information was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System in 2012 by the Missouri Highway Patrol and the case was reopened by the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office that year, the department said in a release. 

After her body was exhumed in 2015, her DNA was extracted by the University of North Texas and the University of South Florida and submitted to the DNA Doe Project, a California organization that uses genetic genealogy to identify relatives through DNA research.


The sheriff’s office contacted a potential match in 2019 with a man living in Alexandria, Virginia. The man told officers he had lost contact with his sister in the 1980s. He provided a DNA sample, which came back as a match for the two being siblings.  

"Bottom Line: We now know the name of Pulaski County (Dixon) Jane Doe is Karen Kay Knippers," the department said in the release.