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Jan 26, 2019

The mystery of Mountain Jane Doe

Co-produced with PRX Logo

This episode originally was broadcast April 1, 2017. We updated this show Jan. 13, 2018.

UPDATE, Jan. 26, 2019:

In the summer of 1969, a young woman was found dead off a remote mountain trail in Harlan, Kentucky. She’d been stabbed multiple times. Her identity was a mystery, so locals referred to her as Mountain Jane Doe. Decades later, a woman from the area takes up the cause of identifying the murdered woman, and her quest for answers leads investigators to a hillside grave and a DNA lab, bringing some long-awaited answers.

Mountain Jane Doe is one of more than 12,000 in a national database of unidentified dead. There are no national laws requiring coroners or law enforcement to use the database, and as a result, cases fall through the cracks and family members are left in the dark about their loved ones.

The exhumation leads to a series of unexpected revelations about who Mountain Jane Doe was and why she might have been killed. Her case speaks to the complexity – and importance – of opening cold cases and using DNA science to try to solve them.

Read: Left for dead: How America fails the missing and unidentified & Program to identify dead and missing across US put on hold
Watch: The Dead Unknown


Produced by Michael I Schiller. Edited by Taki Telonidis.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.