Authorities Encouraged In 1954 Cold Murder Case

April 23, 2008
Reporting: Shaun Boyd,

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) ― An unsolved murder case more than a half-century old could be closer to being solved as authorities try to match a photo of a missing woman with a casting reconstructed from the skull of a "Jane Doe."

A forensic anthropologist has said he can't rule out that the woman, found dead in April 1954 in Boulder County, was Katharine Farrand Dyer, reported missing to Denver police in March 1954. Todd Fenton at Michigan State University super-imposed a photo of Dyer to compare the photo to a likeness of a woman constructed from pieces of a skull exhumed from Jane Doe's grave.

The Boulder County Sheriff's Department called the results promising in light of other circumstantial evidence. Authorities are circulating the photos to try to spur more leads.

Boulder historian Silvia Pettem helped persuade authorities in 2004 to reopen the case after spotting Jane Doe's headstone in a Boulder cemetery and researching the case. She became interested in Jane Doe in 1996 and wrote about the unknown woman, whose gravestone reads "Jane Doe. April 1954. Age about 20 years."

Pettem also recruited the help of the Vidocq Society, a Philadelphia-based group of forensic analysts who volunteer to help solve cold cases. The community donated money to pay for exhuming the body and other expenses.

A gypsum-and-fiberglass bust of a young woman using Jane Doe's skull was unveiled in 2005.

"When somebody's life is taken and particularly under these circumstances, as egregious as they were, there's a commitment to bringing the suspect to justice," said Cmdr. Phil West of the Boulder Sheriff's Department.

Two men walking along Boulder Creek west of Boulder found the woman's nude body in April 1954. She was beaten and left to die at the bottom of a highway embankment.

Residents raised enough money to bury her in a private cemetery plot marked with a small granite headstone.

Tuesday, Pettem visited Jane Doe's grave again on the anniversary of the day she was buried thanks to the generosity of people in Boulder.

"Nobody knew who she was," Pettem said. "The headline in the paper was 'Will This Grave Be A Mystery.'"

Authorities weren't able to identify her. Former Boulder County Sheriff Art Everson suspected a serial killer from California who was executed in 1959.

The case received national publicity, but generated no solid leads until Pettem found information about Dyer, a 27-year-old Denver woman reported missing in March 1954. She was separated from her husband, Jimmie Dyer, and living alone in a boarding house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Pettem located a photograph of Dyer taken by her husband. Dyer's marriage affidavit shows she was born Oct. 14, in San Antonio, Texas, but there's no record of her birth in the county records and no record of her getting a social security number. She was married in 1949 in Prescott, Ariz.

Authorities haven't been able to identify any of Dyer's family and her husband is dead.

Resource for this article:

Additional Videos for this story:

Detectives hope photograph will solve
54-year-old mystery of Jane Doe

Written by: Colleen Locke , Producer  
Reported by: Nelson Garcia , Reporter
created: 4/19/2008 9:47:09 PM
Last updated: 4/20/2008 6:42:56 AM

BOULDER COUNTY - New forensic evidence has moved investigators in Boulder closer to solving the identity of the woman buried under a tombstone marked, "Jane Doe, April 1954, age about 20 years."

Detectives have released a photograph of a woman from Denver who could be Jane Doe. Katherine Dyer was 27 years old when she disappeared around Capitol Hill, less than two weeks before Jane Doe's body was found along Boulder Creek.

Sheriff Joe Pelle reopened the investigation in 2004, largely because of local author and historian Silvia Pettem.

"I think what drew me to her was the fact that I had daughters about the same age," Pettem told 9NEWS Saturday.

After 10 years of searching, Pettem found a set of slides of Dyer, one of the missing women on her list.

Sheriff's investigators exhumed the body, and with the assistance of forensic experts from the Vidocq Society, re-examined the victim's remains, developed a DNA profile and fashioned a likeness of the victim from the re-assembled skull.

Dyer was reported missing March 26, 1954. She was described as being approximately 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing 110 pounds, with blonde hair that she frequently tinted red.

Pettem was able to locate a photograph of Dyer, taken by her ex-husband Jimmie Dyer, presumably around1949. The photograph, along with a casting of "Jane Doe's" re-assembled skull, was submitted to Dr. Todd Fenton, a forensic anthropologist at Michigan State University, for photographic super-imposition and comparison earlier this year. Fenton recently informed Sheriff's investigators that of the two options – "exclude" or "fail to exclude" – he could not exclude "Jane Doe" as a possible match with Katharine Dyer.

Because Jimmie Dyer has since died, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office has released Dyer's photograph in the hope of locating a friend or someone else who might know the identity of Jane Doe.

"If we could find someone related to her on her mother's side, do DNA comparison, that would clinch it," Pettem said.

Resource for this article:

Boulder Jane Doe Time Line
By Silvia Pettem, historical researcher and writer in Boulder Colorado

"Jane Doe's" battered naked body was found at the bottom of an embankment on the edge of Boulder Creek west of Boulder CO by 2 University of CO students hiking in mountains in April 1954. The young woman was slender, about 5'3"-5'4" and 100-110 pounds, with perfect teeth, an appendectomy scar, and light brown/blonde hair.

My goal is to identify her and return her remains to her family.

1996, At Meet the Spirits (cemetery reenactment) I first heard Jane's story. It hit me as a Mom. Jane Doe's grave stated, "Jane Doe, April 1954, age about 20 years." My two daughters were 19 and 22 at the time.

1998, Todd's Tent Girl on TV, inspired me.

1999, I read old newspaper articles (community came together for funeral, "Someone's Daughter"), friend suggests ID of Jane with DNA and modern forensics.

2000, Started making contacts (FBI, coroner, former Sheriff)

2001, New internet user, query on website

2002, Heard from Micki

2003, Approached Sheriff Pelle, challenged to raise funds

2003 Winter, I found students who found body, also pathologist (1st success story, had copy of the autopsy in his living room)

2004, Feb. Sheriff held press conference (reopen case, Historical Society collects funds, webmaster sets up

2004, March, Contacted Vidocq Society (in-kind contributions to match $4,000 we raised. Checks with notes and even poems come in. Community pulled together again.)

2004, From newspaper reports, I found exact same rocks to prove site.

2004, June, exhumation, took 2 days as coffin has disintegrated. I touched her hair. Jane not identified, but I feel as if she has an extended family. Not just me, but Micki, Sheriff officials, forensic experts, donors, general public.

2004, Bones sent to out-of-state lab for analysis and reconstruction of the skull.

2004, August, Dood Magazine

2004, DNA profile completed. Marion McDowell (Toronto) ruled out.

2005, AP story brings in Jennifer Kitt whose great-aunt Twylia May Embrey had been missing since early 1950s. Micki, Jennifer, and I start a search for Twylia. My husband and I drive to North Platte NE to meet Jennifer and two of Twylia's sisters.

Initial superimposition of photos of Twylia and Jane Doe's skull don't match. I am committed to 2 mysteries - ID for Jane Doe and 'Where's Twylia?'

2005, February. Jane's skull is shipped to Philadelphia studio of forensic artist Frank
Bender. Does sculpture of Jane Doe.

2005, Still searching for Twylia and Jane. Flowers appear on Jane Doe's grave.

2005, June. Bender releases his facial reconstruction. I show him Twylia's photo and he believes that she is Jane Doe. Detective immediately gets DNA sample from Twylia's sister.  DNA results (from bone) are inconclusive.

2005, Summer. Two new researchers (Cindi and Dave) contact me and offer their time. We begin group emails with Micki and Jennifer. Compile a spread sheet of missing young women and we start to whittle them down, one by one.  (We find, for some, post 1954 paper trails, i.e. marriage records, newspaper reports of them being found, correspondence with other researchers, etc.)

2005, Summer. Cindi brings up the question of whether serial killer Harvey Glatman (who lived in Denver CO at the time of Jane Doe's murder) could have killed her. We extensively look into his life and believe that it's very probable that he did. (Jennifer, Micki, and I concentrate on Twylia, and Dave, Cindi, and I look into the life and death of Harvey Glatman.)

2005, Fall. Another DNA is profile done, this time mitochrondrial from her teeth. Twylia ruled out. But we still wonder where she went.

2006, March. Sheriff's detective agrees that Glatman is Jane Doe's killer. I continue to research Glatman.

2006, Dave, Cindi, and I have narrowed our search to Katharine Farrand Dyer, a young woman who disappeared from Denver 10 days before Jane Doe's body was found.

2006, Micki finds Twylia through her obituary.  She had died 3 weeks earlier and lived for 50 years under an assumed name. Twylia's family finally has closure.

2006 Spring. KarenAnne and Sandy join the research team. We learn that Katharine was separated from her husband, Jimmie Dyer, and we find a lot of information on him. Start to piece together their lives, but nothing matches.  (Marriage affidavit says born in San Antonio TX, but no birth records, census records, no parents in city directories, etc.)

2006 July. I go to Maryland and attend the showing of a 10-minute segment on Jane Doe on  "America's Most Wanted" We were first filmed during the exhumation, and had high hopes for lots of leads. Didn't get any that were credible.  But I got to meet (in person) my fellow researcher Micki who lived nearby and came to see me.

2006 Fall. I meet, in Denver, with the 2nd wife of Jimmie Dyer. Still trying to learn more about Katharine, his previous wife. (Jimmie had 4 wives in all.)

2006, Marion McDowell (Toronto) is ruled out again with second DNA comparison.

2006 Fall. I go to Tucson AZ and meet with one of Glatman's victims who lived through her assault in Denver in 1945. She said she need to learn more about him, to bring closure to the attack that was fresh in her mind 61 years later!

2007 February. I go to San Antonio TX to participate in the American Academy of Forensic Scientists Conference. Fellow AAFS member gave Jane Doe a 10-page write up in his textbook, "Cold Case Homicides." We put up a Jane Doe poster display and were interviewed by the SA newspaper. Still no leads.

2007 May. Two more researchers (Maria and Carol) joined our team. We communicate by email almost every day in our search which, right now, is focused on trying to find someone in the family of Katharine Farrand Dyer. We have traced nearly every Farrand family we can find, and I've personally called many of them on the phone.

To our knowledge, Katharine has not been found, and we believe she is Jane Doe. But we need to find a family member and have that family member give DNA to prove it.

I particularly want to thank my fellow researchers. We are all committed to the same  goal, identifying Jane Doe so that her remains can be returned to her family.

Why important? When the victim's murderer took her life, he also took her clothes, her ID, and her dignity. Until we exhumed her, she spent half a century in a grave that read "Jane Doe." As a mother and a historian, I'd like to give her back her name. I'm just hoping that there will be siblings or some family members still alive when we finally figure out who she is.

Text Version:

(Introduction to show begins)

TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host):  I’m Todd Matthews.  Welcome to Missing Pieces.  Tonight we have Silvia Pettem; she is another amateur researcher and she actually lives in Colorado.  She’s researching the 1954 case in which a Jane Doe was found in Boulder Canyon, Colorado.  Welcome Silvia.

SILVIA PETTEM (Guest):  Thank you.

TODD:  Silvia’s an old friend; I’ve known her for several years and, in fact, until I read her…she created a little bit of a timeline for me to go about this show, and I found out that I’ve known her for a lot longer than I thought I knew you.  It’s been years.

SILVIA: Well, it has been, yeah.

TODD: It’s funny how time slips away from us like it does.  So you are actually interested in the Jane Doe whose battered, naked body was found at the bottom of any embankment on the edge of Boulder Creek, west of Boulder, Colorado, by 2 university students, and that was in 1954.

SILVIA:  Right, and they were out on a hike and came across the body and rushed down to tell the sheriff and he didn’t believe them but followed them back, and it’s been a mystery ever since.

TODD:  Didn’t they first think that she might have been a mannequin?

SILVIA:  That’s what they thought…well, that’s what was reported in the newspaper, that they thought that perhaps this was just some store mannequin thrown down in the creek bed, and they went closer and found out that it really, truly was a human body.  She had been out in the elements for a week to 10 days and had no clothes, no identity, absolutely nothing about her that they could figure out who she was.

TODD: Okay, what do we know about the Boulder County Jane Doe?

SILVIA: Well, we have a description.  We do have an original autopsy.  She was about 5’3” – 5’4” and weighed about 100-110 lbs.  She had perfect teeth, which means there are no dental records because she had no dental work, and she had an appendectomy scar, so it would be nice if there were hospital records but they don’t seem to have survived.  And she had light brown, almost blonde hair.

TODD: Now, this body was relatively fresh, do you have any idea of how long they think that she might have lay there?

SILVIA: Well, they said about a week to 10 days.

TODD: Okay.  So that’s not very long.  April, April in Colorado, what kind of weather do you have there at that time?

SILVIA: Well, we had just about every kind of weather there was; I went back and researched the old newspaper articles to find out what the weather was, and around the time that I think she must have been murdered, it was very cold, near 0° and snowing.  The day that she was found by these 2 college students, it was in the 70°s and it was very pleasant and that’s very typical of springtime in the Rockies, I mean it can change dramatically, and what that meant for the body was that it was there in freezing time, hot sun, you know, cold, it was there in every type of weather condition that there was, which added to some decomposition, and her face and hands also were eaten away by carnivores so it was impossible to identify her facial features.

TODD: Now, you talked about in 1996, Meet The Spirits, it’s a cemetery re-enactment where you first heard of the Jane Doe story.

SILVIA:  Well, maybe I should explain a little bit what that is.  I don’t know if other cities like Boulder do have this and 1996 was the first year that the cemetery re-enactment was held, and there were about 30 or so people and I was one of them who dressed up like people who are buried in the cemetery.  I happen to have been portraying a Victorian woman professor.  We all dressed up like someone in the cemetery and then stood at the grave for one particular afternoon when the public was invited and we would stand by the grave and give a first-person monologue, about 5 minutes long, I mean we did it over and over and over as the people visiting the cemetery stopped in, and we explained who we were and it was called Meet The Spirits.

TODD:  Sort of a historical re-enactment?

SILVIA: That’s were I first was aware of this Jane Doe victim because someone was portraying her.

TODD: And she was about 20 years old, and I’m reading, you said “It hit you as a mother because you had daughters about the same age, 19 and 22” so she was right in between your 2 daughters in age.

SILVIA: Right.  Now, we don’t really know about 20 years.  It was based on the fact her wisdom teeth were partially in.

TODD:  That’s a pretty good age range, 19 to 22.

SILVIA:   Yeah.  Yeah, but I mean, it could have been younger or older; people get wisdom teeth at different ages, but that’s actually what’s on the gravestone.  It say, “Jane Doe, April 1954, age about 20 years” and, like you said, my 2 daughters were one just younger and one older, so it did hit me.  I wondered, you know, who is her mother and where…who was her family and what happened?

TODD:  Did you think how you might have felt if it had been one of your daughters that was missing?

SILVIA: I just can’t imagine, you know, having a daughter and not knowing where she is or what happened to her.

TODD: So you started gathering information, basically, at that point in time.

SILVIA: Well, I did start, it took me a year or two, but what really got me motivated was I saw your Tent Girl program on television.  I was just riveted.

TODD: That was on ’48 Hours’ right?

SILVIA:  What is it?

TODD: ’48 Hours.’  I think that was the episode that you saw.

SILVIA: I think so and I think it was in 1998.

TODD: That was the year.

SILVIA: But I was just flipping through the channels and I saw that and, I mean, it was just sort of a spontaneous thing and I thought, “Wow, you know maybe there is some way to identify this girl.”  But it was sort of a back-burner project for a while.  I did start reading newspaper articles and compiling information but it was a very long, slow process.

TODD:  So that’s telling us right now, we’re knocking on 10 years next year of actually having known each other.  That is so scary to realize how much times slips away.

SILVIA: I know.

TODD: Now, you talked about, a friend of yours had talked about, identification with the use of DNA and other modern forensic techniques, now obviously they didn’t have those types of things to use at that point in time, so what came in your mind?

SILVIA: Not in the ‘50s.  I think I was sitting, having a beer actually with a friend of mine and he said, “You know you can…there’s DNA evidence now, you can use modern technology to try to solve something like this” and I guess your program was in the back of my mind and then he was saying this and it just sort of re-enforced my subconscious feeling that maybe there’s something that I can do.

TODD: I’m glad you did.  You’ve done a lot for her.  I’m reading an amazing list of accomplishments with this.

SILVIA: Luckily I wrote for, and I still do, write for ‘The Boulder Daily Camera’ the newspaper in Boulder, and I had access to their files and I started going through the file on this, it just was called ‘Murder File’ and then it said “Unidentified Girl’ and I started reading everything that I could possibly find.  Some librarian, many years ago, had clipped articles, and then I went onto microfilm and found some more and later, it wasn’t until a year or two later, that I actually went to the sheriff’s office, this was in the county so if fell under their jurisdiction, but I found out that they don’t have any of the files so the only record that we have is through these newspapers records so it’s just incredible that they survived.

TODD: And there actually was a funeral, years ago, you found, right?

SILVIA: There was a wonderful funeral.  There was a photo that accompanied one of the newspaper articles and the headline was something like, ‘Will This Gravestone Be A Mystery?’ something like that, and it showed just 30 or so people standing there by the casket covered with flowers.  This was back in the ‘50s, there were ladies with gloves and little purses and hats, and it’s just such a wonderful period piece, but the community pulled together and contributed money for her funeral.  The county was going to just bury her in pauper’s grave because they didn’t know who she was and the community said, “No, no, we’re going to raise the money, we’re going to buy a plot and we’re going to have a real funeral.”  And it turned out that the funeral home donated the casket and provided the service and individuals and florists sent flowers, and those have survived, the cards, not the flowers obviously, but the little gift cards that went with the flowers have survived and they were kept by the mortuary all these years, and the one that I just find the most poignant just said, “To Someone’s Daughter” and that’s all that we know about this girl is that she was someone’s daughter.

TODD: Did you save those cards?  Were you able to scan them?

SILVIA:  I’ve scanned them, oh yeah.

TODD: I knew you would.  Been there, done that.

SILVIA:  I have copies of everything.

TODD:  So you started making your contacts; FBI, coroner, former sheriffs, you started talking…do you have any family members that remembered this?  That actually remembered this happening, you know, I’m not sure if you were originally from the area?

SILVIA: No, I actually grew up in Pennsylvania.  I came here in 1965 to go to the University of Colorado, so I was a decade too late, well a decade and a year too late, to remember anything about this but there were very few records, like I said, the sheriff’s office had nothing in their files and not just for this case, but the whole decade is gone and it’s very sad.  Nobody really knows what happened to them.  We don’t know if they were destroyed, or lost, or what but the one thing that was a stroke of luck, and every once in a while I think this is what keeps me going, something happens that’s just a stroke of luck.  There was no autopsy report originally, and I found through one of the newspapers articles, the name of the pathologist who did the original autopsy.  It was a fairly unusual name and I got on the Internet and I Googled him, and it turned out that there was only one person by that name in the whole country, and I called the phone number and he’s an elderly man living in Washington or Oregon, I can’t remember now, and he said, “Oh, I have a copy of that in my living room.”  He said, “I’ve been wondering about that case all these years,” so he sent it and that’s how we know her description and what she ate before she was killed and, I mean, all kinds of things.

TODD: Oh, and you know, I think we had talked about before where we had actually tried to find an autopsy photo and some description and you said it was going to be difficult but we might have been able to reconstruct something with a sketch if we had had a fairly good photograph from an autopsy.

SILVIA: That’s 2 more sort of serendipitous things that came about.  One was, I think when we first started talking there was no photo at all.

TODD: Uh hum

SILVIA:  And after there was some local publicity here about what I was doing, I ran into a man who collects memorabilia and newspapers and that sort of thing on Boulder, and he said, “I’ve got something that you might be interested in.”  It was copy of a…well, it was called a…in the ‘50s it was called ‘an off-campus sex magazine’ and it was just a very, very strange publication, but it was what we would call ‘soft porn’ and they had a picture of this victim’s face, but a lot of it was eaten away of course, on the cover of this magazine.  It was most distasteful and disgusting place to see a murder victim in something that some college students sold off-campus because the university wouldn’t even let them sell it on campus.

TODD: But what a stroke of luck.

SILVIA:  Well, it was a stroke of luck to find it but it re-enforced what we had been reading in the newspaper articles that none of her facial features were distinguishable and then, strangely enough, in…well, it was just before…I’m getting ahead of myself in the story, but just before the facial reconstruction was released, somebody put some photos that were taken…we call them…they’re not really autopsy photos, they’re morgue photos because in autopsy photos actually somebody’s cut open, this is pre-autopsy, and some more photos of her just suddenly appeared at the newspaper office where I work, and it’s not open to the public, the place where they were found, they were just stuck in the librarian’s ‘to be filed’ basket.  All we can think of is that somebody cleaned out their desk and didn’t want to admit that they had these.

TODD:  But, yet they tried to give them back in a roundabout way, I guess.

SILVIA: They gave them…well they eventually got them to me and I’m very grateful because, well I immediately took them to the sheriff’s office and they scanned them and got the very best photo that they could, but we don’t know where they came from and they weren’t part of the original autopsy that this man had in his living room.  So there are many little twists and turns when you do this kind of research.

TODD:  Well, the twists and turns, a lot of it started when you actually, you discovered the Internet 2001, when you were actually a new user.

SILVIA: Well, I got on a little bit earlier but in 2001 I put my first query up on, I think it was RootsWeb, and I said, “Does anybody know anything about this murder victim?” and a whole year went by and then I got an answer from a woman named Micki, she lives in Maryland and she said, “I’d like to help you find this identity for this girl” and Micki and I have become really good friends, we met last summer for the first time face to face but we’ve been corresponding now for 5 years and she’s one of several researchers now that I email.  We have talked on the phone a few times but we email each other several times a day every day, and still do, and when I explain that to other people and they say, “Well, what are you doing?” and I say, “Well, I’m still working on this Jane Doe project and I’m doing it every day” I don’t think that anybody but those people that I’m emailing can really understand it is that we’re doing.

TODD: Yeah, nobody really understands exactly how you use the Internet.  I’ve had people come and they want you to…I don’t know if they think that you can just type in their problem and it’ll kick out the answer but it’s not, you have to chip away at it and that’s what you and Micki have been doing.

SILVIA:  You just have to keep plugging away, that’s true.

TODD: Little details…

SILVIA: With Micki’s help, she encouraged me to really dig into this further and I went and approached the sheriff in the fall of 2003 and I said, “Is there some way we could re-open this case and, of course he didn’t have any records, and he’s younger than I am and he’d never even heard of it.

TODD:  Well you changed all that for him, I have a feeling.

SILVIA: Well, I took him copies of all the newspaper articles and I met with some other people in the sheriff’s office and got them all interested in it and everybody got all excited about it, but then the bottom line was money.  The sheriff didn’t want to use taxpayers’ dollars on a cold case when there are new cases that people are screaming about, so I said, “What if I raise the money myself?”  He said, “Well, if you raise the money yourself, then we’d love to.”  So I went to the historical society and they agreed to be the repository for donations and I put out an appeal to the community, just like was done back when the funeral was being held, and the community really responded and they sent in their donations to the historical society that were earmarked for this fund so that they were tax-deductible donations, and I raised about $4,000 and then I think I contacted the Department of Justice, I was just kind of contacting everybody I could think of on the Internet and said, “How can I get some help on this case?” And they put me in touch with the Vidocq Society, and I don’t know if your listeners are familiar with them or not, but they’re based in Philadelphia and they are forensic experts who work for free on cold cases, which is exactly what we had, and we arranged for our Jane Doe’s remains to be exhumed, that was in June of 2004, and the Vidocq people, three of them came from other parts of the country and helped with that and they are still consultants on the case and, without their pro-bono assistance, we could never have done this.

TODD: Now, they’re from the same state that you’re from originally, right?

SILVIA: Well, they’re based in Philadelphia, but they’re all over the country.  Yeah, I was originally from Pennsylvania.

TODD: Had you heard of them before?

SILVIA:  Oh no, I never heard of them and I think it was a gradual process of knowing you, Todd, and then meeting the people of the Vidocq Society, I mean gradually I realized that there’s thousands of these unidentified victims and thousand of missing persons, and you know it started out with just me at a gut level, as a mom in the cemetery thinking, “Who could this girl be?” and now I realize that there’s lots of us doing this work and there’s a lot more work to be done.

TODD: There’s a lot but yet a few at the same time because, you know during the first, my first beginning into this world, I didn’t know anybody else, I was the only crazy one out there until the Internet.

SILVIA:  That’s what I thought too, I didn’t realize that there were other people doing this.

TODD: I was almost embarrassed to tell people what I tried to do because they thought it was strange or morbid almost, and you know, it’s anything but morbid.  You know what we were doing wasn’t anything like that…

SILVIA:  I know.

TODD:  …and it was only when I was able to find other people, like you, with the Internet, you know my mystery was solved with the Internet, and then for the other mysteries, I found the other people that were interested in doing the same thing and, suddenly, we’re not in the closet any more.  People are interested in what we are doing.

SILVIA: Right.

TODD: It’s totally different now.

SILVIA: I completely agree but let me tell you about the exhumation because everybody thought that…well, first of all there was a hearse that was parked there, I was allowed to be there, and everybody thought they would dig up this coffin and put it in the hearse and drive it off somewhere and somebody would examine the remains, and it turned out that it was a wooden coffin that was not too far from an irrigation ditch.  The whole thing had deteriorated or disintegrated underground and they started digging, well they started with a backhoe and then they dug by hand, very carefully, to kind of tap to see if they could feel the top of the coffin and never felt one.  And then, all of a sudden, we were looking in the grave and there were some of her blonde hair and they dug a little more and there was hair and bones and her teeth.  Her skull was in many, many pieces.  The whole skeleton was taken out bone by bone.  It took 2 entire days.  It was absolutely the most…well, I don’t even know how to describe it; it was very intense, very emotionally draining.  It was an experience that I will always remember.  It was literally like reaching back 50 years, and I even touched some of her hair and some people find that extremely bizarre, but to me, I had to make that connection.

TODD:  Yeah, you did, you made contact, in so many ways.


TODD:  In so many ways.   I understand completely and, you know I’ve had a lot of bones in my hands of people, I learned later who they were and, you know, really cared a lot about them, but I never knew them.  I know exactly what you are feeling.  So then the bones were sent out of state to a lab for analysis.

SILVIA:  Well, the skull was re-assembled and that took many months.  The bones were waterlogged and they had to dry out and I don’t know if the whole skeleton was re-articulated or not, I think it might have been, but it was all, you know all the injuries were compared with injuries that were mentioned in the autopsy.  She had a large skull fracture and a lot of broken bones on the left side of her body, so it was speculated that her murderer hit her with a blunt object on her head, and then the breaks on the left side of her body could have been from being thrown down this embankment.  But, anyway the people who were re-assembling her remains were comparing those bone injuries to what was on the autopsy.  That was all done down in Tucson, so I wasn’t privy to that but, again, that was some of the people from the Vidocq Society.  And then, once the skull was all together, it was shipped to Philadelphia where Frank Bender made the facial reconstruction and he did a sculpture.  And he’s…I’m sure many people have seen him on TV or know of him, he’s a very renowned forensic artist and he based everything on the actual skull itself and feels very confident that his sculpture looks like our victim.

TODD: Now, how did you feel the first time that you looked upon that face?

SILVIA: Well, I have…it’s hard to say.  My initial thought was “Why didn’t he give her a 1950s hairdo?”  He gave her straight hair like she just came from out of the creek, which she did, but…well, actually she wasn’t in the water, she was on the edge of the creek, but I wanted to be able to look at her, or have people look at her and say, “Oh, that looked like aunt so-and-so in my photo album.”  And back in the ‘50s, their hair would have been kind of upswept and different, so my initial reaction was that but I mean that’s a superficial one.

TODD: Well, it means a lot though because…

SILVIA: I don’t know…it’s just a very strange feeling.  I just don’t know if I’m really looking at her or not.

TODD: You know I pay attention to a hairstyle maybe more than I might the facial features, you know, and to me that’s a big memory trigger but I wonder if there was enough hair left that they were able to tell a particular length of hair, and I always thought that that was important, like the top of the hair was 4 inches, on the sides it was 2 inches because that gives somebody an idea of style and somebody like a hairstylist could actually help reconstruct the hair too.  But it’s hard to introduce those things when it’s unknown, if you’re not really sure, you nearly have to have the straight down hair and leave it to the imagination of people.  Unfortunately people don’t realize that.  I know Dr. Emily Craig and she actually reconstructed a skull like this with…as far as putting together a fractured skull, and it was David Koresh from the Waco incident; she actually glued it together with Superglue.

SILVIA: Oh, wow.

TODD: I’m sure that’s how they did it pretty much the same way.


TODD: Dood Magazine, that’s the magazine you spoke of earlier?

SILVIA:  That was the soft-porn, off-campus magazine, yeah.

TODD: And that’s when you discovered…that’s 2004; I’m following your handy timeline.

SILVIA: That was actually after the exhumation, the exhumation was in June of 2004, and the magazine surfaced after that and then these photos, almost a year even later than that.

TODD: But do you see how your actions actually created reactions?  You know once you get the ball rolling; it tends to start picking up speed.  I didn’t know that until later myself, but that’s exactly how it works.

SILVIA: Right.  Well, the main thing that we wanted to accomplish, which we did, in exhuming the remains, was getting a DNA profile.

TODD:  And you did that in 2004?

SILVIA: Yeah, although we did it again because the first one was done from a bone and I’m not really as knowledgeable as I’d like to be on DNA, but that was a nuclear DNA sample from bone which they later felt was not as reliable as a mitochondrial DNA sample from her tooth.  So we had one place do the…and this is what the donations, people’s donations went toward, was this DNA work, but we did get this first DNA profile and then we had some national publicity from the Associated Press and I was contacted by a woman in Nebraska who thought that perhaps her great-aunt, Twylia May Embrey, could have been Jane Doe, and that I call that the ‘Twylia twist.’  That just really captivated me. 

TODD: I remember that because you had a lot hope in that, that that was going to…

SILVIA:  Well, we really did think that maybe we had solved this case at that point.  We later found out, through that DNA sample, and yet another one that Twylia was not Jane Doe, and there was yet another Twylia twist in there.  But first, I just wanted to mention that I visited with Twylia’s sister in Nebraska, as well as the great-niece, and visited the family cemetery and I was asked by a reporter out there, why I came and if it looked like at that point it looked like Twylia was not going to be Jane Doe, and I said, “Well, now I’ve got 2 mysteries to solve here” because I think, wherever Twylia is, I think Jane Doe is somebody like Twylia.  It’s just my gut feeling.  She was a runaway, from a family situation I don’t want to get into here in the interview, but she ran away from home.  It was a farm family, a rural family and I just have a gut feeling that the Jane Doe is some similar situation to that.

TODD: Kindred spirit almost, right?

SILVIA: Yeah, I just…standing there in this little, tiny town, farm town out in the middle of rural Nebraska at the family plot, I just thought, “This is the kind of background I think might be Jane Doe’s.  But it turns out that Twylia had been living, for over 50 years, with an assumed name.  She had a completely different identity and had left her family and started over and my researcher friend, Micki, actually was the one who found her but not until 3 weeks after she died.  Micki found her through her obituary; even though all of her names were different, the parents’ names were the same.

TODD: So it was actually the obituary that brought her to the surface?

SILVIA:   Yeah.

TODD:  Where you could see her.

SILVIA: I mean, if she hadn’t died, we would never have found her.

TODD: So it wasn’t really a day late and a dollar short; that was the action that caused you to find her.

SILVIA: Right.  Right.  And it was a real twist in the story, but with the 2 different DNA profiles, we did of course rule her out and then, of course, found out what happened to her.  The other missing person that we ruled out was Marion McDowell from Toronto who’s one of the…well, I learned of her through the DoeNetwork, but you…

TODD: Do you still look on the DoeNetwork?

SILVIA:  What was that?

TODD:  Do you still look on the DoeNetwork when we have new cases that pop up?

SILVIA: Oh yeah, you bet.  But she disappeared from Toronto in December of ’53, our Jane Doe was found in April of ’54; it was kind of a stretch but we thought, “Well it’s possible” but that DNA has been compared; Marion has a brother still alive so his DNA was compared with the sample fro Jane Doe and they do not match, but we sure would like to find somebody to compare her with.  Our latest theory, I’m saying ‘our’, that’s my researcher team who is all over the country, we really believe that she’s a woman named Katherine Farrand Dyer, and if Katharine is alive and well, I hope she is, I would love to hear from her but she just plain disappeared about 10 days before Jane Doe’s body was found and we think that she was out there in the elements for a week to 10 days, so the timeline fits very well.  Katharine disappeared from Denver.  We know a lot about her estranged husband and his life; he’s no longer alive, but she did not leave a paper trail after she disappeared, and all we have is a newspaper account saying there was a police report that she disappeared.

TODD:  I’m seeing you’ve seen no birth record…

SILVIA: We’ve tried to find somebody in her family…

TODD: Wow, there’s just nothing left, no birth records, no census records, no parents…

SILVIA:  Well, we found a marriage record of her.

TODD: Uh huh

SILVIA:  She was married to her husband in Prescott, Arizona in 1949, and there was an affidavit there that said that she was born in San Antonio with a date and everything, and there was no birth certificate.  Of course she could have been born at home with no record of it, that’s possible, but I’ve been through the state of Texas, the county up there and the city of San Antonio, none of those places have any record of her being born.  There’s no census record that has any record of any family who would have been the right age, in the right place, at the right time.  There is nothing in any city directories of San Antonio.  I even had a genealogist on the ground in San Antonio, go through newspapers, look for around the time that she was born, and on for weeks or months, looking for birth notices and nothing.  I mean I’m at the point now where I think she just maybe made that up.  She may have even made up her name.

TODD: It’s very possible.  At the time you could get away with something like that a lot easier than you could now.

SILVIA: Yeah, you could falsify a marriage affidavit; that was certainly possible back then.

TODD:   See my Dad was born at home and his social security wasn’t filed until many years later, you know, and my grandma could have made him whoever she had wanted to make him.

SILVIA:  That happens a lot.

TODD:  Yeah, and I think that’s kind of messed up genealogy.

SILVIA: You find people with more than one social security number.  We found that with our research on Twylia May Embrey.  When she created a new identity, she had a new social security number and we got records of both and she’s the same person but she’s got different names and different numbers.

TODD: Were both closed out at the time of her death that you know of?

SILVIA:  The first one, there’s no record of, except the family had a copy of her actual card with an actual number, and it was nothing like the one…I mean it was a completely different state and everything from the one…she is now in the social security death index…

TODD: Okay.  So that takes care if it.

SILVIA: …but as a falsified number, so I don’t know.

TODD: Do you think at one time that there is a possibility she could have been a victim of a serial killer?

SILVIA: Not Twylia, no.

TODD: No, our Jane Doe.

SILVIA: Oh, our Jane Doe, yes.  Absolutely, and that’s where this Katharine fits in, it all meshes together very closely, but one of my researchers actually, and this is more than a year ago, just said, “Do you think it’s possible that Jane Doe could have been killed by Harvey Glatman?”  Harvey Glatman was a serial killer who lived in Denver at the time and he was executed in San Quentin in California in 1959 after admitting to 3 murders in California, but he had a lot of assaults in Denver.  Actually his very first assault, I think, or one of the first was in Boulder, and that was in the ‘40s, and I tracked down one of his victims, who he assaulted, molested and robbed, and interviewed her and she remembers this all very clearly but she was just tied up and left in an alley in Denver.  But he went from a pattern of attacking women to murdering women, and I’ve talked to one of the women that he attacked, and we have lots of records of the women that he murdered, and our Jane Doe victim chronologically fits right in between.  So, at some point, this admitted serial killer changed his…you know he went from attack to murder.

TODD:  He got increasingly violent.

SILVIA: Yeah, and I think it’s very likely that Jane Doe could have been the first woman he murdered and he got away with it.  He actually, in California, well, there’s a biography about him called ‘Rope’ (by Michael Newman), and he’s written up in several different books about serial killers.  They call him ‘The Lonely-Hearts Killer’ because actually kind of trolled for victims in what were called lonely-hearts clubs, they’re dating clubs, and there was one called the Clara Lane Friendship Society and that was kind of a franchise of these clubs, and there was one in Denver right at the time of Jane Doe’s murder and it was a block from the house where this Katharine disappeared from.  I mean it’s eerie when you start plotting out places and the dates and I think that it’s very likely that Katharine is our Jane Doe and that Harvey Glatman was her murderer.

TODD: So that’s yet another mystery because you’re still researching Glatman.

SILVIA:  Well, once you start…

TODD: It just kind of branches out, don’t it?

SILVIA: …with the serial killer, it gets pretty interesting.  I set out to identify Jane Doe and I got off on a big tangent with this serial killer but you know the more pieces of the puzzle you can get and plug them in, the more you can get the whole picture.

TODD: This will probably keep you busy the rest of your life because it just keeps going and going.  I know there’s no stopping.

SILVIA: Well, it does keep going and going, and it’s just very, very fascinating but, right now, we’re desperate to find somebody in this Katharine’s…her maiden name was Farrand, in her family, F-a-r-r-a-n-d, and it’s a fairly unusual name.  You start doing genealogical research and you like those unusual names because you don’t have so much stuff to wade through and we just can’t find anybody in her family.  I’ve called I don’t know how many people, I’ve called all over the country with that name, just saying, “Was there ever anybody named Katharine in your family who disappeared?” and we haven’t found them yet.

TODD:  Well, in 2005, you and I were both on a CNN special.

SILVIA: Right.

TODD:  And that was interesting because that’s the first time I really got to see you in action; even though I wasn’t there, I watched the video footage and I know you took the reporter down to the scene.

SILVIA: Right.

TODD: And you had matched up the rocks by looking at the photograph; you knew exactly…how many times had you been down there before you took him down there?

SILVIA: Oh, probably a dozen or more.  Finding the rocks was another big exciting point in this case because all we had from the newspapers reports, it just said was [she was found] 300 feet downstream from a particular turnoff in the road, and this was shortly before the exhumation but I had bought a brand new digital camera and I was thinking, “What could I do to try out my new camera?”  So I took the photo from the newspaper and when about as far as a football field, you know 300 yards it was, not feet, downstream and I started comparing the area with the photo and there were 4 very large rocks that were very distinctive, with distinctive markings on them, and I found those exact same 4 rocks and actually found the exact spot where the body was found.  So I went back, I mean I felt almost like the students running back the get the sheriff, I brought the sheriff back up and he agreed that this is the scene.

TODD: Again, that was like making contact with her in a way, like when you touched her hair, when you go to that scene, that’s where everything happened.

SILVIA: Yeah, and I still do.  I mean I go there on the anniversary of when she was found and I guess whenever I’m anywhere in that area, I will just go and walk down there and think about her.

TODD: I know what you mean about going back to the scene.

SILVIA:  She’s become a part of my life.

TODD: Yeah, and I mean it will.  It’s going to consume quite a bit of you; it already has but it will more.  I have a feeling it’s not over for you yet.

SILVIA: No…absolutely not.  Then, last summer, we kind of pinned all our hopes on this ‘America’s Most Wanted’ program and…

TODD: That took you a long time to get that going, didn’t it?  You worked a long time to get that going.

SILVIA:  Yeah, and we went through a couple of different producers and it kind of died and came back they filmed…they came here…the film crew came 3 times and the time they were filming me they kind of shadowed me for 2 days and, I mean 2 days all day, and I had to change my clothes 5 times so it looked like it was spread out through the year and it was kind of an interesting experience.  That aired last summer.  I’ve been trying to find out if they’re going to air it again but I haven’t heard back from them, but we really kind of hoped that once we got this out that the leads would just pour in, and they didn’t.  So, what that kind of tells me is that it’s maybe even more likely that she’s Katharine and maybe Katharine doesn’t have any family anymore.

TODD: Nobody to actually respond to the call.

SILVIA: No.  I mean we had a few calls but nothing really credible.

TODD: Now the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Conference, now you had a little bit of luck with that.

SILVIA: I went to that in February.  That was a fascinating experience.  This was a conference that the Vidocq forensic people go to and they invited me to participate.  This was in February (2007) just a couple months ago and it was in San Antonio, which is where, according to the marriage affidavit, our Katharine was born.  So I went down and participated with the people at the conference.  We put up a big display of photos and information on Jane Doe.  I had contacted the newspaper before and asked if we could get some publicity because I thought, “Gee, if she really is from San Antonio that maybe somebody will come out of the woodwork down there” and I think we really gave it our best shot because I couldn’t believe the publicity.  We were front and center, above the fold in the San Antonio newspaper; a huge article, and not one person responded to that so I don’t think she’s from San Antonio or, if she is, there’s nobody around that remembers her.

TODD:  It’s just like Katharine…

SILVIA:  We gave it a good shot.

TODD: And you just hope that somebody will respond; I’ve done that so many times.  You put the information out and you think, “Will I get a bite?  Will this be it?”

SILVIA: But the good thing about the Internet is that this stuff stays around for a while so…

TODD:  Everything you do, just like this particular radio show, when it is actually transcribed, it will be a 20-page document that will be available, online, permanently and that’s another step in the right direction, so anything we can do, and everything we’ve mentioned tonight, all those other cases, they’re all documented now.

SILVIA:  I appreciate that and I’d like to, if it’s okay with you, plug our website.

TODD: You go ahead.

SILVIA:   It’s and we have every article we’ve ever found, every article that’s been written is posted on that site.  We have a message board.  We’ve got information on the Vidocq Society, the sheriff’s office, the historical society, everything that I’ve mentioned, and more, is on that site, as well as a way to contact me . If anybody was missing someone who maybe around 20 years old, Caucasian, blonde, who disappeared in 1954, we’d sure like to hear from them.

TODD: Now this has almost been 54 years.

SILVIA: Yeah, almost, it’s 53.

TODD: So, it’s getting there.  Okay, can you tell me now; it was so long ago, why does it even matter today, after all this time?

SILVIA: Well, you know a lot of people have asked me that question, and I just can’t, I mean I guess it goes back to me being a mother, and I just can’t imagine if it were a daughter of mine being in an unmarked grave like that.  I mean everybody deserves their name and this young woman had everything taken from her, she had her life taken, her clothes taken, her identity taken and she was just dumped like a bag of garbage, and that’s not right.

TODD: Now your family…

SILVIA:  The least I could do is give her name back.

TODD: Yeah.  That’s important.

SILVIA: My ultimate goal is to return her to her family.

TODD: Now, let’s speak about your family.  How do they feel about this?

SILVIA: My family?

TODD:  Yeah.

SILVIA: I have a husband and 2 grown daughters and 3 grandchildren, so I think when I became a grandmother a few years ago that reinforced, to me, how important family is.

TODD:  Do they understand what you’re doing?  Or are you just a little crazy?

SILVIA: Of course not…I shouldn’t say that but when we started this fund drive to raise money for the DNA, I remember my daughters said, it was right around the time of my birthday day, and they said, “What do you want for your birthday?”  I said, “I want a donation made in my name to the Jane Doe Fund” and it’s funny, one daughter did and the other daughter didn’t, she just thought that was too weird, I guess.

TODD: But she took care of Mom anyway, huh?


TODD: She took care of her Mom in another way, I’m sure of that.

SILVIA: Yeah.  Yeah, but they don’t really understand.  I’m hoping that they will someday.  I’m working on a book on all this and I just feel like it’s too important, you know it needs to be documented and I think, one day years from now, hopefully the book will be done and they’ll read it and they’ll understand at that point, but everybody’s caught up in their own lives right now.  But I get questions from other people too.  I called one of these Farrand families and said, “Was there a Katharine in your family who went missing” and got explaining this whole thing to somebody out of state, and the lady said, “What do you want to do that for?”

TODD: Yeah, like why?

SILVIA: So I found myself explaining it all over again and you know if she was a family, it could have been her family, it might still be her family for all I know; she didn’t seem to think so but she didn’t know much about her family.  I said, “I just want to return her.  It won’t cost the family anything.  I want to return her remains where they belong.”  If she belongs in a family plot like Twylia’s, Twylia’s family out there in Nebraska, then I will personally see that she gets there at no expense to the family.

TODD: So, if the family is listening, she does not come with a bill.  You’re not going to have to pay for all of this.

SILVIA: She does not come with a bill, no, and I want to be at another funeral for this victim with another stone, with her name on it.

TODD:  What about the old stone?

SILVIA: The old stone is actually in storage.  The city of Boulder put it there because there was some vandalism in the cemetery and everybody was very concerned that this stone not be vandalized.  I don’t know what the future of this stone is, I think eventually if we can’t find who she belongs to, our Jane Doe, she will be reburied in the same cemetery, probably with the same stone.

TODD: I’d like to see the stone end up in a museum at some point in time because I don’t think people realize the importance of these things.

SILVIA: Well, I feel a little uneasy though too right now about her remains, I mean they’re sitting in the sheriff’s office evidence room and that’s not right.  I mean I want to see her get back to where she belongs, but if she can’t, within a year or 2 or 3, she going to have to go back in the grave that she was exhumed from.  I don’t know what else is right.

TODD: But now that she’s bones now, so it should be a lot easier to contain in it something that can be removed a lot easier.


TODD: So that would be a much easier exhumation the next time around.

SILVIA:  Right, but we have the DNA profile, we have the facial reconstruction and through the publicity, we’ve gotten these morgue photos, we have the autopsy and the newspapers clippings.  There are a lot a things we don’t have like original police reports and, you know all that stuff we wish we had, hospital records for the appendectomy and I just wish people did a better job of saving their records, but I could go another hour on that topic.

TODD: Well, we’ll have to give you a chance to do so.  I definitely want to have you back.  I so enjoyed talking to you and I know there’s so many more adventures left here and I know you want to do a book and hopefully, when this is transcribed, you’ll have 20 pages of raw material to work into your book.  It’s all yours.  You do what you want to with it.  I hope it helps you out.

SILVIA:  Well, I really appreciate you helping me to get Jane Doe’s story out and if anybody is listening who has any information whatsoever, we really would love to hear from them.

TODD: It’s very important to you.

SILVIA: Absolutely.  Thank you.

TODD: Well, we’ll say goodnight to all of our guests, and I think Silvia and I will chat for a little while longer, but it’s been great having everybody and thank you for being a wonderful guest, Silvia.

SILVIA: Well, thank you.

TODD: Goodnight, everybody.

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(Composite of Boulder Jane Doe shown above)
Guest: Silvia Pettem
Historical researcher and writer in Boulder Colorado
Missing Pieces would like to thank the following for their support:
Pastor Wayne Fitzpatrick and Eric Meadows with
Aired: May 29, 2007
Solving The Mystery Of Boulder Jane Doe
In 1954, An unidentified female was found murdered
in Boulder Canyon, Colorado. Her identity remains a mystery.
Special Thanks to
for transcribing this episode!