Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1970 Darke County Cold Case Homicide Victim Identified

After 38 years and nine months, Darke County's only unidentified homicide victim is positively identified.

On October 11, 1970 the body of a nude female was found in a corn field in the 1200 block of Frazers Road in rural southern Darke County. The manner of death was ruled a homicide by the Darke County Coroner's Office. In late October of 1970 the victim was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in the Darke County Cemetery. The Darke County Sheriffs Office and the Darke County Coroner's Office investigated the case for several months but the victim remained unidentified and the case grew cold.

In 1999 Investigators from the Darke County Sheriffs Office and the Darke County Coroner's Office reopened the case. Since that time the body of "Jane Doe" has been exhumed and forensically re-examined and DNA was extracted. In addition a forensic artist created a facial reconstruction using the skull of the victim. On October 9, 2008 the unidentified victim was laid to rest a second time and a press conference was held. The facts of the case were reintroduced to the public and photos of the facial reconstruction were publicized. A plea for assistance from the public was made to help us identify this homicide victim.

On October 14, 2008 Phyllis Nichols of Wayne Lakes in Darke County contacted the Darke County Sheriffs Office requesting to speak with investigators. Mrs. Nichols had observed the photo of the facial reconstruction and story in the local newspaper and believed that it resembled her niece that had gone missing in 1970. Mrs. Nichols reported that in late summer of 1970 her eighteen year old niece Jeanne Marie Melville of Green Bay, Wl was traveling to Darke County, OH to visit her. Mrs. Nichols and her daughter went to the bus station in Richmond, IN to pick her Jeanne Melville up but she never showed. Jeanne Melville was not seen or heard from again. Mrs. Nichols reported that she and the Melville family had reported Jeanne missing to various local police agencies but because she was age 18 there was little they could do and Jeanne's disappearance went uninvestigated. Based on this report the Green Bay, Wl Police Department was notified and their assistance was requested. The Green Bay Police Department agreed to open a missing person cold case and assist in this investigation. Investigators from both agencies submitted DNA standards from relatives in Darke County and Green Bay, Wl. The DNA was forwarded to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification for comparison.

On July 10, 2009 The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification notified investigators that the 1970 Darke County Unidentified Homicide Victim is positively identified as Jeanne Marie Melville of Green Bay, Wl. The identification was the result of conducting DNA analysis and comparison with Jeanne Melville's only living sibling and two aunts.

The Darke County Sheriffs Office and the Darke County Coroner's Office have reached one of its primary objective's in this cold case investigation. Identifying the victim has permitted investigators to learn more about the circumstances and events prior to Jeanne Melville's death that were previously unknown. This has created new leads in the investigation and we are now able to focus on solving the murder of this young girl.

* A detailed investigative summary/timeline is attached here. (takes a minute to load)

[media release from Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker, Darke County Sheriff's Office]

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