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unidentified: beth doe

Beth Doe's body was found at around 4:30pm on December 20, 1976, near a river bank in White Haven, Pennsylvania. Around 7 hours to a week before, 9 months pregnant Beth Doe had been sexually assaulted, strangled and shot in the neck by an unknown assailant. Her body was then completely dismembered with a fine, serrated knife and placed in three suitcases along with the parts of her unborn baby. Her nose, breasts and ears were all severed and have never been recovered.

Two of the suitcases were stripped and one tanned, all of the vinyl material and all of the same size. It was obvious that they had all been spray painted, and their handles had been severed at some point in time. To dispose of the body, the suitcases were thrown 300 meters off a bridge into the Lehigh River along Interstate 80 most likely from a car travelling west. It is believed that the suitcases were meant to land in the water below to lessen their chance of being found, however, two of the cases landed in the woods 20 feet away and the third was found on the river bank.

Beth Doe is believed to have been between 15 and 25 years old, around 4'11 to 5'4 tall and weighing 140-150 lbs. Both her hair and eyes were brown and she had a small, circular mole above her left eye and a mole on her left cheek. She had a scar on both her left leg, just above the heel and on her left calf. The fetus she was carrying was a full-term, white female. She had suffered extensive dental disease resulting in three extractions, multiple restorations and extensive decay. Her oral hygiene had improved in recent years however at her time of death she was still suffering from tooth decay and a tooth fracture which would have been both extremely painful and noticeable to others.

During her autopsy, the medical examiner noted that Beth had a set of numbers written on her body. The ink, most likely from a standard pen, was on the left hand of the victim which, if the writing was done by herself, indicates that she was right-handed. The writing consisted of the letters WSR followed by the numbers 4 or 5 and a 4 or 7, due to the decay it was difficult to confirm which set of numbers it was. It is possible the numbers relate to a bus she was meant to travel on or a place she was meant to go, however, it is yet to be discovered what the writing means.

Other items found in the suitcases were straw, packaging foam, an originally pink bedspread which had faded to a coral colour and fragments of newspaper later discovered to be The New York Sunday from September 26, 1976. The newspaper was traced back the northern part of New Jersey, so it is most likely the assailant had ties there. The bedding, along with some newspaper parts had been wrapped around sections of the body.

Beth Doe's fingerprints were taken by the FBI, as well as DNA samples, however, they did not match any national databases. After trying multiple different leads, police compiled a sketch and asked the public for assistance in identifying her. Although this is believed to have resulted in a few strong leads regarding the case, both her identity, the murderer and the motive was never discovered.

In 1983, she was buried in Laurytown Road Cemetry, Pennsylvania after remaining unidentified for seven years. In 2007, her body was exhumed to obtain additional forensic evidence (which ruled out eight other missing women as being her) and to create a new facial reconstruction. Advanced forensic testing of her bones does suggest that the woman was possibly born in Western to Central Europe and likely migrated to the USA five to ten years prior to her death. This seems plausible, as it explains to an extent the difficulty identifying Beth Doe has been although she may have migrated with other people.

As no family have come forward regarding the identity of the woman, it is possible she was perhaps murdered by someone close to her. If not, there is the theory she was killed by a violent partner whilst trying to escape (which explains the father of her unborn baby not coming forward). Or perhaps she was just murdered by a stranger. It is speculated that the WSR on her had stood for the name of a woman's shelter which she would have had to travel along Interstate 80 to get too. It is possible she was simply picked up by a hitchhiker, assaulted and murdered.

It is highly probable that the identity and the killer of Beth Doe will never be discovered, and both she and her child will stay resting in a simple grave forever.

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