Police have identified a teenage girl nearly 50 years after her body was bound, gagged, wrapped in a tarp and dumped in a drainage ditch in Connecticut, officials said Monday.
Investigators have never been able to identify Jane Doe, who was found in East Haven on Aug. 16, 1975, they said at a news conference. With no identification, officers hit a block, but they continued their investigation into her death by strangulation. In 2022, they exhumed his body from where it was buried in nearby Hamden and took a DNA sample. It was sent to Identifiers International Forensic Genetic Genealogy Services.
Marian Newsom Collett, the victim’s sister, submitted her DNA to GEDMatch, a service that compares DNA data samples from different testing companies. The two samples matched and East Haven police were finally able to name Jane Doe: Patricia Melody Newsom.
Newsom Collette last saw her sister when she disappeared from her boarding school in Monticello, New York, when she was 9 years old. Newsom ran away from school with a friend in 1972 and headed to Maine, police said.
As the years passed, Newsom launched the Collette FindPatricia Newsom Facebook page. He decided to add his DNA to GEDMatch, he said during a press conference. An officer in Tennessee, where Collette lives, took a DNA swab.
He traveled to Connecticut for Monday’s police announcement. It was a moment of great relief when Newsom Collette got the call from the police about her sister’s identity.
“I always knew in my heart that he was gone,” she said at a news conference Monday. “And just knowing that other people cared, that there was another side that was looking for, and that I could bring him home.”
East Haven Police
East Haven Capt. Joseph Murgo said police, who have never given up on cold cases, began exploring the possibility of exhuming Newsom’s grave at State Street Cemetery in 2020. The cemetery has been defunct since 2010, making it difficult to pinpoint where the teenager was buried.
In June 2022, they found what they thought was the teenager’s grave and exhumed a body, Murgo said. They were devastated to exhume the wrong body. Police said the exhumed body was that of a man, but could not identify him further.
“We were disappointed and discouraged, but we knew we had to push,” Murgo said during the press conference.
They used the ground penetrating radar service, which scans underground areas and produces high-resolution images of the scanned material, to search for the teenager’s coffin and discovered that the cemetery contained about five times more caskets than expected, Murgo said. They found the right one in July 2022.
The casket was exhumed and DNA samples were collected and handed over to Identifiers International, a forensic genetic ancestry service. Newsom’s DNA was linked to Collette’s own sample, allowing police to identify her sister.
Now that Newsom has been identified, Murgo said police can focus on the homicide investigation. Even with no arrests, Newsom Collette says she’s already gotten a lot of closure.
“Because whoever did this to my sister, whoever they are, they’re either going to meet their maker soon or they’re going to meet these good people,” he said of the police investigation. “So either way, it’s not going to be good for them.”
Investigators and Newsom are asking anyone with information on Collette to come forward. They are looking for friends, teenagers who attended boarding school and anyone else who was in school at the time to come forward. Their parents are not alive to share any information, Newsom Collette said. Their mother died before the teenager disappeared and their father died a few years after she disappeared, Newsom Collett said.
“If you know something and don’t say anything for so many years, we all have reasons for what we do or don’t do,” Newsom Collett said. “Now is the time.”