DNA Doe Project could shed light on nearly 50-year-old Maury County cold case


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s a case that the Maury County Sheriff’s office has been working on for decades, but the woman at the center of it remains unidentified. On Valentine’s Day in 1975, two hunters found the skeletal remains of a young woman estimated to be between 15 and 25, along with her clothing in the woods two miles from Joe Brown Rd off Highway 99 East near I-65 in Maury County.

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The remains of a puppy were found close to her body.

The Maury County Jane Doe had a name, a story, and a life, but her DNA produced no matches in the CODIS system used by law enforcement. However, new DNA techniques and genetic genealogy may be able to identify this Jane Doe.

The DNA Doe Project uses these groundbreaking techniques to help law enforcement and medical examiners across the country.

Gina Wrather, a Research Team Lead for the DNA Doe Project, says about the Maury County Jane Doe, “Someone’s missing her, someone’s been looking for her, and someone has unanswered questions.”

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The DNA Doe Project takes a sample of the unidentified person’s DNA and puts it through genome sequencing to develop a full genetic profile. “When we use investigative genetic genealogy, we do a full DNA profile. And we look at many, many more markers, millions of markers,” said Wrather. “And so we can take that information, we can swizzle it into a format that is compatible with a website called GEDmatch.com.”

From there, potential family members are identified through this DNA database and a genetic genealogists map out a family tree in hopes of discovering the identity of the Jane or John Doe.

“Someone’s missing her, someone’s been looking for her, and someone has unanswered questions.”

Gina Wrather

Wrather tells News 2 that if you have had your DNA tested, you can help, “Anyone who has tested at a direct to consumer testing companies, such as ancestry, 23andme, family trees on and so forth, can download their raw data and upload it to this website called GEDmatch.”

Uploading DNA profiles to GEDmatch is encouraged for people who have missing family members. Many of these cases are solved when distant family members come up as a match, “It’s the second and third cousin matches that really crack these cases. It doesn’t have to be, you know, a sibling or parent that uploads to GEDmatch to solve the case.”

While this innovative technique can solve mysteries that span back decades, DNA sequencing is not cheap. It costs a few thousand dollars to do a full DNA profile of the unidentified remains. In the case of the Maury County Jane Doe, funds are still needed to do this delicate DNA testing.

The DNA Doe Foundation raises the money for testing through the DDP fund. To donate to have the DNA of the Maury County Jane Doe tested, you can go to the DNA Doe Webpage.


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