Article: Beth Doe
Incident number N3-27244. That is what they called they called her, but she was also known as Beth Doe. And her story is one of the more gruesome of the Jane Doe cases you will hear. Therefore, this article will be a bit more graphic than others so your discretion is advised.
Beth Doe’s story starts with a 14-year-old boy named Kenneth Jumper who’s taking a walk on the afternoon of December 20 1976. During his walk, he goes passes under the Interstate 80 bridge, which crosses the Lehigh River in White Haven, Pennsylvania. At approximately 4.30pm, Kenneth sees several misshapen objects hugging the river shoreline. He decides to have a closer look and he finds a suitcase containing a unborn, nine month female baby. And the dismembered head of her mother with her nose and her ears cut off. Now obviously, Kenneth calls the police.
When the police arrive, they find two more suitcases 20 feet away from the river’s edge with their contents knocked out upon impact. It is believed the suitcases were thrown off the bridge above. In these two suitcases were more dismembered limbs and a female torso with her breasts cut off. The cuts look clean and some of the pieces of the body are wrapped in newspaper and a faded orange blanket. The authorities search the shoreline for evidence and more clues as to who were these victims and what had happened to them and this is where they will spend several days.
On December 23, an autopsy is carried out at the Gnadden Huetten Hospital. While her cause of death was deemed to be strangulation, she also suffered from a gunshot wound to her neck. It is also unclear where this happened before or after her death.
She had no identification on her. And it was estimated that she was aged anywhere between 15 and 25 years old. A while female with brown hair, brown eyes and blood type 0, weighing anywhere from 140 to 150 pounds and stood anywhere from 4’11 to 5’4 inches tall. She had a prominent scar 6 inches above her heel and another on her other calf. A mole above her left eye and another on her cheek which both may have been caused by her pregnancy.Her child was due soon and would have lived. Autopsy showed her to be a very healthy baby girl.
It is suspected that Beth’s killer had meant to throw the remains of Beth and her daughter in the river but missed his mark. And he either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
Perhaps the most strangest of all, on Beth’s left palm was a series of letters and numbers written in ballpoint pen ink. The letters WSR followed by a 4 or a 5, and then by a 4 or a 7. The ink was too smudged to correctly determine the exact inscription. However the coroner was able to determine that the writing was done in the last 8 to 12 hours. Meaning if her killer wrote it, he could be long gone if he was on the run. However, if Beth has wrote the numbers herself, it could mean that a) she was right handed since the writing was on her left palm, and b) that she had been alive to write it just 8 to 12 hours before. The numbers were compared to licence plates but nothing turned up. And to this day, the exact numbers and their exact meaning had never been solved.
Her bones and teeth and hair were also subjected to Isotope testing which provided some important clues to Beth’s identity. Firstly, her teeth were in a heavy state of decay. She would have been in extreme pain from them. However she had her molars extracted when she was only a teen and had some fillings. This indicated at one point in her life, she had the means to receive some dental care. Secondly, she was born in Western or Central Europe, specifically they found links to a Mediterranean heritage. At some point before puberty, she immigrated to the United States where she had lived for the last 5 to 10 years, somewhere around the Tennessee area, leading up to her pregnancy and subsequent murder.
The FBI found no match in the several times her DNA was run through their database of missing persons. And artist renderings despite being circulated widely, yielded no results.
So, police look at the other physical evidence they do have – the three suitcases she was found in. All three suitcases were spray-painted black but police released photos to the public of what they believed these suitcases looked like before this occurred. All suitcases were the same size and the same brand.
The coroner estimated that Beth was killed between 7 and 24 hours before her remains were discovered. And as I mentioned before, some of her limbs were carefully wrapped in newspaper, specifically the New York Sunday newspaper from September 26 1976, the same year of her death. The orange blanket had embroidery flowers on it but other than that, offered no clue.
Now as far as I can tell from the research available, I didn’t find any evidence of her murderer. No DNA, fingerprints, a murder weapon, nothing. However, the police were able to determine this was a man who knew their anatomy. Maybe not with the precision of a surgeon but the lead investigator at the time was quoted as saying the killer “knew exactly what he was doing” when it came to dismembering Beth’s body.
In 2007, DNA that was exhumed ruled out eight missing women as being the identity of Beth Doe.
Who was Beth Doe? Was she a criminal? A homeless girl? A runaway? Was she trying to escape an abusive relationship? A pregnant girl trying to make a fresh start? Was she kicked out of her home because she was pregnant? Was she an illegal immigrant? A girl trying to escape the sex trade? All of these are theories that have been speculated. And where was she going? Did she have a destination? Or was she just merely trying to get away from something or someone?
It is speculated that the writing on Beth’s hand WSR could have stood for Women’s Services and Resources. There was in fact a Women’s Services and Resources centre opened at the time and it was located just two hours away from where Beth’s body was found. And to get there, you had to travel down I-80. It is possible that Beth was living in the area at the time and heard of the centre which had opened in 1975, just a year before her death. Perhaps she was trying to escape an abusive situation, packed up her three suitcases and left. We don’t really know who the suitcases belonged to and when they were spray painted. It is possible she was even trying to hitchhike to the centre and came across the wrong person.
But the state of her body has indicated to some that this wasn’t a random attack. And this was actually a deliberate, calculated assault by someone she knew. An honour killing is basically a spouse or relative is murdered and it is justified by the killer based on something the victim did to dishonour the family or the partnership. Specifically it is used against women often under the accusation of adultery. It’s something that is unfortunately more common in certain cultures. Honour killings can be carried out by a spouse or family member and if this was the case with Beth Doe, those closest to her who are meant to protect her likely wouldn’t have said anything if she had gone missing due to their involvement in her murder. And if anyone asked? She just returned to her home country.
Now that’s just one theory and there are no concrete facts to back this up any of these theories, just mere speculation. We may never know what happened to Beth Doe. But what we do know is that her and her baby were buried together in Laurytown Road Cementry in Weathery, Pennsylvania. And her grave is adorned with a simple white cross with the name, Beth Doe.
The most recent development in this case was in 2015, when the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children provided two new sketches of Beth Doe in hopes of someone recognising who she was even though its many decades later. But the detective now in charge of the case, Thomas McAndrew believes that no more questions will be answered until Beth Doe’s name is truly revealed.
With that being said, if you have any information on the identity of Beth Doe, please contact Officer McAndrew at the Pennsylvania State Police on 570-669-9898 or 570-459-3890.