ASU group works to solve Wis. cold case

A forensics expert and professor worked with students to try to solve a cold case out of Wisconsin from the 1980s.

GLENDALE, Ariz. - A forensics expert and ASU professor worked with his students to try to solve a cold case out of Wisconsin from the 1980s.

They received the skull of a woman who was brutally murdered and left with no identifying features, according to the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin.

"[Cold cases] get set aside, because new cases come in,” said Anthony Falsetti, Ph.D., D-ABFA, a forensic anthropologist for almost as long as this cold case has existed.

It’s a case more than 30 years old, now getting new attention.

Falsetti and his students at ASU's West Campus School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in Glendale worked last semester to reconstruct the fractured skull of a woman who was completely unrecognizable when deputies started their investigation.

The victim, known for now as Jane Doe, had following trauma: a large area of impact to the back of the skull; sharp force injuries to the left ear -- possibly by a knife; her jaw fractured in two places; two blunt force-injuries above the eye which shattered her eye socket; and both of her hands missing, cut off at the wrist.

The victim was "bludgeoned,” according to sheriff's investigators.

Her body was tossed on the side of a road and found by Vernon County teenagers driving by.

Falsetti’s wife is a forensic artists. She created a rendition of what the victim may have looked like.

So, why visit a cold case more than three-decades later?

"Since 1984, a lot has changed,” explained Falsetti. “In our science and anthropology, we've changed. We've gotten more accurate in our estimations in age and sex and ancestry, as well as other technologies … obviously DNA."

The professor and his students used new technology to take a fresh look at the case with the goal of identifying the victim and bringing her killer to justice.

"Someday she'll have her own name back,” said Dr. Falsetti.

The victim’s dentures were found at the scene missing at least two teeth. It’s not clear if that was a result of her brutal death.

Falsetti said that in 1984, dentures didn't necessarily have serial numbers unique to a patient, so they’re no help in identifying the victim beyond having a better understanding of what the jaw and mouth area may have looked like.

The images rendered from this study have been made available to local media in Vernon County, Wisconsin to help identify the victim and continue the investigation.

There have been 400 unsuccessful leads to missing middle aged woman since the body was found, but this victim is still a Jane Doe.

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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