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Watch, ring may help police identify 'Jane Doe'

By Philip Rosenbaum, Nancy Grace Producer
Police believe a body found in a farmer's field was that of a middle-aged woman.
Police believe a body found in a farmer's field was that of a middle-aged woman.
  • Woman's body found by Indiana farmer in September 1999
  • Police suspect the woman, who was middle-aged, was strangled
  • Watch, jewelry found with body may help identify her
  • Know something? Contact Indiana State Police at 260-415-3875 or 260-432-8661

(CNN) -- Indiana farmer Maurice "Gene" Headley was driving his tractor to check out his corn and beans one day in September 1999 when he saw what he first thought was a deer carcass.

He stopped, got off the tractor and approached the remains, spotting a watch on the wrist of what he recognized as a human skeleton. Headley went to the authorities.

Nearly eleven years later, the body -- believed to be that of a white or Hispanic woman, 40 to 50 years old and approximately 5 feet, 4 inches tall -- is still an unidentified Jane Doe.

"We've checked every known missing person at that time and we just couldn't come up with anything,'' said Detective Harry Nix of the Indiana State Police.

Headley's farm was on the outskirts of Angola, a city of more than 7,000 about two miles from Interstate 69 in the northeast corner of Indiana.

The body lay on the grass for at least a month. It was a very hot and dry summer that year, Nix said. The skull was separated from the rest of the remains, most likely by animals. According to Nix, a fox den sat only about 50 feet from the body.

Despite the condition of the body, pathologists could tell it was that of a woman, based on the size of the pelvic bone. There was some hair on the skull, because it takes longer to decompose.

A bra was underneath the base of the skull, leading police to suspect that the woman had been strangled. But the body was so decomposed that the cause of death could not be proven beyond a doubt.

"Between the animals and the bug activity, the only thing that was left was bones, except for a piece of skin on a shoulder blade,'' said Nix. On that skin, he said, was a tattoo of a Pachuco cross, which has three rays coming out of the upper part.

The Pachuco cross is popular in Hispanic cultures and can symbolize living on the edge of society, Nix said. Also, earrings were found in the dirt and a sterling silver ring with a turquoise stone was still on a finger.

We tend to think she was dropped there.
--Detective Harry Nix, Indiana State Police

Nix took the ring to an American Southwest jewelry expert, who said it was probably 20 years old and possibly one of a kind. Investigators' efforts over the internet to find the person who made the ring have not been successful.

Nix said investigators cannot say for sure where the victim was killed.

"We tend to think she was dropped there,'' he said, citing evidence of broken blades of grass and weeds, where a vehicle may have pulled up and then circled around to make a getaway.

About a year later, Headley had a massive heart attack on his farm and died. The land was turned into a semi-private golf course and, according to Nix, the spot where Headley found the body is now the driving range.

The woman's remains were buried in a plastic container in a small public cemetery. The grave is unmarked, Nix said. At one point in the investigation, a man in his 30s who had been separated from his mother as a child saw the poster for the case and contacted police.

To see if there was a match, the body was exhumed and a better DNA sample was taken from the root of a tooth. But the results showed no connection between the man and Jane Doe.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the Indiana State Police at 260-415-3875 or 260-432-8661.