Finley Creek Jane Doe was a female found buried in a shallow grave that was discovered by two hunters on August 27, 1978 at the Finley Creek Cow Camp near Elgin, Oregon.

She was also estimated to be 6-8 months pregnant; as fetal remains were also located in the grave as well.

Case

At approximately 7am, two hunters from Milton-Freewater, Oregon were hunting at the Finley Creek Cow Camp near Elgin when Ron Swiger discovered skeletal remains at a shallow grave near the hunting grounds. The skull appeared to be protruding from the grave, some skeletal remains scattered nearby. It appeared that she had been buried face down in the shallow grave.

Investigators with the Oregon State Police arrived at the scene to survey the area and interview the hunters. Her skeletal remains were taken to Coffey's Funeral Home in La Grande; where Dr. Judy Buczek of the Grande Ronde Hospital pathology department had examined the remains. After making initial analysis and identifying the remains as female, the remains were transported to Portland by Dock Baker, a detective with OSP. Prior to the transport, it was noted by Lt. John Spilker of the OSP crime lab in Pendleton that smaller bones had been found with the remains, indicating that an unborn child may have also been buried with the woman. This was confirmed by the pathologist.

Investigation

In late September of 1978, a press conference was held by members of the Oregon State Police and then-District Attorney Dale Mammen. They announced Dr. Brady's findings and also divulged information about the scene of the crime, stating that the grave had been buried at a measurement of 29" deep x 20" wide and four foot long. It was estimated that she may have died sometime before 1975 or 1976 and that animal activity had occurred at the gravesite; some of the bones had been damaged or missing as a result.

Between 1978 and 1990, numerous reports and leads were followed up on; which included a ghost call to the OSP hotline indicating a pregnant woman by the name of Tina Bradford had been in the area around 1977. At the time, she had been in the late stages of pregnancy and that she had been in the company of Paul Wormack. The two's relationship was not established; however, it was stated that she was from McMinnville, Oregon. A followup was requested by the DA, but nothing ever came of the lead.

In 1979, members of the OSP and the Thurston County, Washington Sheriffs Office responded to an abandoned camp that was found on Forest Road 241, about 25 minutes from where the remains of the woman and her child were found. The camp had a lean-to shelter made from small wooden poles that had been taken from the same area; each end being cut by a hand or chainsaw as they were cut evenly. A large filled-in hole measuring 6' x 6' x 6' was also located consisting of items that varied from cooking articles to toiletries and clothing. Of note, about 30-40 blue plastic backs manufactured by Stay Free Mini Pads (a feminine napkin) and a dark blue nylon windbreaker that read "NISQUALLY EAGLES"; a canteen bottle that said "TESE" on it in marker; and a pair of boots that had the names "FOX, HOLMAN AND STEPETIN" in it.

The next day, OSP received information from Thurston County that the name Stepetin was well known and that a relative of the Stepetins had reported his wife missing years prior. James "Jamie" Sanchez had reported his wife Dana Lou Sanchez missing in 1976 after she had possibly relocated to her hometown of Toledo, Ohio. He had never heard from her since then. A report was made; however, the case file indicates this lead was not followed upon. During a meeting between Dr. Nici Vance of the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office and the Finley Creek Jane Doe Task Force in May 2020, a rule-out was made due to documents that proved Dana was alive beyond 1976. A record of divorce existed in Washington State between James and Dana in 1978.

In 1990, the case was considered closed and all evidence, including the remains, was ordered by the Union County DA Russ West to be destroyed. The evidence was destroyed and the woman and her child's remains were sent to a Walla Walla, Washington crematorium to be cremated. Prior to this, her remains had been stored at Coffey's Funeral Home pending identification. As of 2020, she and the child's cremains are considered lost.

In the summer of 2019, a volunteer task force was formed by two researchers, Jason Futch of Portland and Mel Jederberg of La Grande. Jason had been researching the case since January 2018, Mel a year later when she found the information on the case from Websleuths. The research team has established communications with the Medical Examiners Office in Clackamas to help aide in the identification of the Jane Doe. In 2020, the team consulted Anthony Redgrave of Redgrave Research in to begin work on a facial reconstruction for the Jane Doe based on photos of the skull that was provided to the team in March 2020. Soon after, the case file was made available to the team and has since been published on Websleuths and Crimewatchers.

Alternate rendering of the Jane Doe, depicted at the angle of the skull reference photo.

A major focal point of the group is to locate the cremains of the Jane Doe and her baby so that they are returned to the Oregon State Medical Examiners Office for possible DNA extraction by DNA Labs International and Parabon in an effort to recover any useful DNA and repair the damage to them so they are able to be used for genealogy research.

On May 5th, 2020, Dr. Nici Vance and the team members of the Finley Creek Jane Doe Task Force unveiled the forensic reconstruction of the Jane Doe for the first time. The artwork had been done by Anthony Redgrave of Redgrave Research and was a collaboration with Dr. Amy Michael of the University of New Hampshire Forensic Science Department. This was the first time since the case began that a forensic reconstruction had been made on the Jane Doe.

Exclusions

Characteristics

When the remains were sent to Portland, Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. William Brady observed the remains. In his notes, he made the following determinations about her physical appearance:

  • She was a pregnant female, estimated between 5'2" to 5'4" tall and weighed between 115-140 lbs. (Later observations updated the height and weight to be between 5'1" to 5'3" and 115-125 lbs.)
  • She had light brown or blond hair.
  • Her pregnancy was in the sixth to eighth month of development; quite likely near to delivery.
  • She had extensive dental work with amalgam fillings present in all of the first two molars, on multiple premolars and third molars.
  • The right maxillary third molar is absent and the other third molars had erupted.
  • There was no way of determining how the woman had died; however, a 3-foot long coaxial cable had been found at the grave. Later observations by the medical examiner suspect that she may have been strangled to death by the cord found at the scene.

Clothing and accessories

Found with the remains of the Jane Doe were:

  • Red "Catalina" brand pants, size 15/16 (juniors?). There was evidence of possible length alterations.
  • Ankle-high lace-up shoes. The volunteer team has determined that they may possibly be Red Wing ankle shoes or generic work boots.
  • A white halter top with flower patterns.
  • Various remnants of clothing and a zipper found near the body.

Sources

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