TROY — Miami County’s Jane Doe got her real name back on Wednesday when officials announced that a 37-year-old murder case had resulted in the identification of the victim.
Dubbed “Buckskin Girl,” the female has been identified as Marcia L. King, 21 at the time of her death, from Arkansas, it was announced during a press conference on Wednesday.
The confirmation was made Monday, April 9, by the Miami Valley Crime Lab following DNA testing.
The female homicide victim was found on April 24, 1981, in a ditch along Greenlee Road, located west of Troy, and believed to have only been deceased for hours when she was found. She was found clothed, wearing bell-bottom blue jeans, a brown turtleneck sweater with an orange crisscross design on the front, and a handmade tan buckskin pullover jacket with leather fringe around the seams and a deep purple lining.
An autopsy concluded she was strangled to death, but also suffered blunt-force trauma to her head and also had a lacerated liver.
The scientific assistance that led to the victim’s identification was conducted by the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit organization created in 2017 to apply genealogy tools to the identification of unknown persons. Miami County’s Jane Doe case was one of the first cases accepted for the project, using degraded DNA. The founders of the DNA Doe Project, Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick and Dr. Margaret Press, both flew in from California to be at the Wednesday news conference.
According to Miami County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Steve Lord, he has been in contact with King’s family and they wish to remain private while they now grieve the loss of their loved one. He said King’s mother has lived in the same home for the last 37 years, kept the same phone number — and the hope that King remained alive.
“They were hopeful Marcia would come home. They now know that won’t happen,” said Lord, who said the family plans to update King’s headstone in Troy’s Riverside Cemetery that simply says “Jane Doe — April 22, 1981,” which reflects the day investigators initially believed she was murdered.
Lord said King was never been reported as missing and that the sheriff’s office did not want to reveal too much information, as the case remains active until the person or persons who murdered King are located.
Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said the murder has always remained an open case and as technology has advanced, it was used to work toward identification.
As DNA technology became available, the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab generated the victim’s nuclear DNA profile in 2001, according to officials. In 2008, her profile was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). In 2009, her mitochondrial DNA profile was developed at the NamUs DNA lab, and both genetic profiles of the deceased were entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). In 2010, NamUs case management was assigned to Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a forensic anthropologist and professor of biology at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, who has assisted with the investigation since.
“I can’t emphasize how many things had to go right for us to be standing here today,” Murray said. “This is some revolutionary, ground-breaking work.“
In 2016, a new facial image was generated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2016, pollen studies of the victim’s clothing were conducted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, and stable isotope studies on her hair were concluded in an effort to trace the victim’s location and geographic movements in the last year of her life.
“Law enforcement never forgets. We’ve had a long journey to where we are today,” Duchak said.
Lord said the investigation now shifts to solving the homicide. He said King’s last known whereabouts — according to family and other investigative materials — were the Louisville, Ky., and Pittsburgh, Pa., areas.
Anyone with information about King and the continuing investigation can contact the Miami County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at 937-440-3990 or leave tips at www.miamicountysheriff.org/contact-us1. Lord said the tip lines will be checked continuously in the coming days.
“We’re trying to get a pretty good picture painted of where she was the last month before she ended up in Miami County,” Lord said.