Decades old Illinois Cold Case linked to Columbus


GRUNDY COUNTY, Illinois (WCBI)- A 1976 cold case in Illinois could have ties to Columbus.

Investigators reached out to the Columbus Police Department with the hopes that someone here, can help them figure out who this woman is.

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Over 40 years later, it’s still a face without a name.

After recently reopening the case, Grundy County Illinois investigators got a tip that leads them to believe Jane Doe is from Columbus or Lowndes County.

“We don’t know who she is. It’s an unidentified black female. Again, we don’t know who she is or what circumstances got her to that point,” said Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton.

A newly released enhanced picture shows what Grundy County Investigators believe Jane Doe looked like at the time of her murder.

A tip lead Grundy County to Columbus, Mississippi.

“They interviewed some people and they suggested that this woman may be from Columbus, Mississippi,” said Chief Shelton.

On October 2, 1976, a farmer found Jane Doe’s body in a field.

Reports state the woman was shot in the back of the head. A plastic bag and a knitted sweater covered her head.

“She was found partially clothed, gunshot to the head,” said Grundy County Coroner John Callahan.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the automotive industry was booming in the north. Chief Fred Shelton says during that time it was common for someone from Columbus to go north looking for a better life.

“People were going to find better jobs, find a better place to live and that would be okay for someone to move up to them areas,” said Chief Shelton.

Not knowing who she is has been been challenging part of the investigation. It’s also weighed heavy on those who are working tireless to solve this mystery.

“It’s bothered me knowing that she someone’s daughter, someone’s loved one. Her parents are probably deceased, but she could have brothers, sisters or cousins,” said Callahan.

With today’s technology, new clues and a team of dedicated investigators from Illinois and Columbus, police are hoping to piece together the unsolved mystery and put a name to a face.

“There’s a family somewhere out there that’s missing a child and they would love to know where that person is and what happened to them,” said Shelton.

DNA samples have been sent off for testing to put more pieces of the puzzle together. Grundy County officials are looking at all missing African American females from 1976 nation wide, hoping to bring the case to a close.

“We have a list of 17 females, and of those 17, I feel that four to five of those are potential matches,” said Grundy County Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson.

At the time of her murder she’s believed to be anywhere from 18 to 23.

Once the DNA testing is back that will give investigators more answers.

If any one knows who she may be, please call Columbus Police.

You can also call the Grundy County’s Coroners Office and speak with Brandon Johnson at 815-941-3359.

Some material from the story is contributed to WGN and WLS in Chicago.