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Catching her killer: Justice for Jane Doe - Part 3

VERNON COUNTY, Wis. -- One of the most notorious unsolved mysteries in Vernon County is taking center stage once again after nearly three decades of unanswered questions.

It's a story we've been telling you about through our special series, "Catching her Killer: Justice for Jane Doe."

It's a case the Vernon county sheriff's department never would have thought would stay unsolved for this long. They said even 30 years later, taking a second look at the evidence with today's technology and a little help from the community just might do the trick.

Jane Doe's investigation has been a long time coming for retired Vernon County deputy sheriff Jim Hanson.

"To lay this out to the public and the media, it is a bit of a sigh of relief to say, ‘OK, we've got it to that point, now public help us out,'" said Hanson.

Hanson was the patrol deputy who answered the call nearly 30 years ago. It was a call that still stays with him today.

"A relatively elderly lady dumped at a road side, dying a violent death, it just doesn't seem right that she isn't identified and returned to where she belongs," said Hanson.

Three teens had found Jane Doe's body dumped on the side off Old Line Road about four miles south of Westby.

She was brutally beaten and both of her hands were severed at the wrists.

"Whoever killed her went to extraordinary efforts to conceal her identity," said Vernon County Sheriff John Spears. "We need to go to extraordinary efforts to break through that and identify her."


Her identity and her killer still remains a mystery today, but Spears hopes it won't stay that way for much longer.

"It'd be easy to step back and say 'Well, we did everything we could 28 years ago,' but that's not the way this has been," said Spears. "No one has ever sat on their hands in this investigation in this case."

Investigators have spent the past six months updating the information in the case and having all of the evidence re-examined with today's technology. They're also hoping current DNA sciences will bring about new clues to a case nearly three decades old.

"Advancements with the technology in the media and the forensic science, that's huge for us," said Spears. "That gives us another advantage that they didn't have 28 years ago."

But at Thursday's press conference, investigators said the answer just can't come from the sciences. The public needs to do their part too.

"Jane Doe was a very distinct-looking individual," said Spears. "She was an older adult. Somebody knows her. Somebody is going to look at that picture, if they take the time, and say, ‘that looks like our neighbor or she frequented our store' or whatever. Somebody is going to know who she is and we're going to know it, too.

Investigators are hoping to get results back from the DNA testing and evidence re-examination within the next 60 days. Friday will be the 28th anniversary of when Jane Doe was found. They will also start a Facebook page for her soon.

Investigators stress that any little bit of information may help lead investigators to be able to identify Jane Doe and her killer.

Spears said so far, they've had four new tips since the "Catching her killer: Justice for Jane Doe" series has aired. The last tip they received was in 2010.

If you have any tips or information on the case call the Vernon County Sheriff's Department at 608-637-2123.

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