The Story Begins in the Backwoods of Union County, Oregon…
Two friends from Milton-Freewater, Oregon are on a hunting trip. While preparing for their morning hunt, the men discover something they never thought in a million years would be something they would ever see.
The skeletal remains of a human being were buried in a shallow grave, the skull of the skeleton lying on top of the clandestine grave.
Later, as more information is processed, it is discovered the remains belonged to a young woman, pregnant in the latter stages of pregnancy. Also revealed is that the woman may have been murdered; a radio cord possibly the weapon used by the murderer.
Read more about the case by CLICKING HERE
In a 2018 discussion with the Oregon State Police Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Veronica “Nici” Vance, it was discovered that Finley Creek Jane Doe’s remains, along with those of her unborn child, were cremated sometime after her autopsy. However, between then and the recent attention to the case, their remains disappeared without a trace.
It has also been discovered that any evidence collected from this case went missing. Additionally, Dr. Vance confirmed that there was little information on the case, which suggests that a portion of the file could also be missing.
Read more about the development by CLICKING HERE
In 2018, a veteran missing and unidentified persons researcher discovered Finley Creek Jane Doe’s case. It was after someone had suggested he look into the case more. It went from there to ballooning to a group of local Union County volunteers who are attempting to assist in the research and identification of the Finley Creek Jane Doe.
If the Oregon State Medical Examiner can’t help them, they will help themselves. It’s obvious the hands of justice have given up on her, but this group wants to make sure she has a fighting chance.
Learn more about the non-law enforcement initiated task force by CLICKING HERE
IMPORTANT NEWS AND UPDATES:
FINLEY CREEK JANE DOE'S STORY TOLD ON
CRIME TIME NERDS: A SISTER PODCAST
On January 31st and February 7th, 2021, Ash and Nat of the Crime Time Nerds podcast gave a detailed description on the Finley Creek Jane Doe case. Not only that, the duo was cordial enough to invite Taskforce members Mel Jederberg, Jason Futch and Kathy Casper to discuss her case. Part one of the podcast discusses the case in depth, while part two showcases the interviews with the Taskforce members. The discussions are in depth, and perhaps the best discussion on this case so far. You can visit their podcast at the following links:
APPLE PODCAST: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/crime-time-nerds/id1530638253
APPLE PODCAST: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/crime-time-nerds/id1530638253
Team Digs Into Local Mystery
By Phil Wright, La Grande Observer 4/21/2020
LA GRANDE — Melinda Jederberg of La Grande has a mission — find out the identity of a young woman who was found in a shallow grave near Elgin.
And if luck prevails, find out who put her there.
Jederberg said she knows that's a long shot. The case has been cold since hunters in late August 1978 found the human remains near a log on Finley Creek some 18 miles north of La Grande. The Observer covered the story at the time.
The woman was 18-25, according to the report at the time from state medical examiner Dr. William Bradley, stood 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 114-140 pounds. She had light brown or blond hair. She was pregnant and likely near delivery. And the remains may have been there for four years.
Jederberg, who earned a bachelor's degree in criminology in 2007 from Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, has long kept her interest in crime. She came across The Doe Network last year, a website devoted to cold cases of missing and unidentified people. She said she wanted to find out whether there were cases in Union County. And at the top of the list was the Finley Creek case.
"I never heard of this," she said. "How is it possible I never heard of this?"
She started to dig and has not stopped. She took to Facebook and created the page Finley Creek Jane Doe — Elgin, OR to raise awareness and maybe bump into a clue. Others found the page, and now Jederberg is part of a five-person team with members throughout the West. In March, they obtained a copy of the Oregon State Police file on the case with details of the crime scene such as what the young woman wore. The report also points out police found a 4-foot-long piece of nylon cord and an approximately 2-foot-long radio cord with the remains.
Dale Mammen of La Grande remembers the scene well. He was the county's district attorney then.
"I could probably go to the spot," he said. "It's one of those things that's embedded in your mind."
The grave was about 100 feet off a road, across the dry bed of Finley, up an small embankment and under a log.
Two hunters noticed bones, he said, which animals had savaged. The hunters realized the bones were human.
Nothing indicated the woman was local, he said, and no one could find any reports of missing people here. Mammen said he figured she was a loner or had her own network of relationships. He also said he and his office suspected she may have been a victim of one of the most prolific serial killers of the Pacific Northwest.
"My theory on that at the time," he said, "and still is, it was about the time the Green River Killer was active."
Gary Leon Ridgway is serving life in prison at Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla, for murdering 49 women, although he has confessed to almost twice that many.
But Jederberg and teammate Kether Senn of Pendleton have their own theories. They said there are similarities with the Lewis Clark Valley murders, a cluster of unsolved killings and disappearances that occurred in northern Idaho between 1979-82.
"I feel like there might be a connection with that," Senn said.
She came across Jederberg's work via the Facebook page in 2019. Senn said true crime already was an interest, and the local case caught her.
"I got really interested in it," she said. "It kind of hit home to me, especially seeing she was pregnant. How could this happen?"
Between caring for three children, Senn said she has devoted a "lot of time on this late at night reading articles" to help crack the mystery. She and Jederberg also have their eyes on Harry Hantman as a suspect.
Harry Anthony Hantman was 44 when the law caught up to him in 1993 outside a motel in Lewiston, Idaho. He escaped on Christmas Day 1973 from St. Elizabeth's Hospital in the District of Columbia, the same mental hospital where John W. Hinckley was incarcerated after he shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Hantman was in the hospital's ward for the criminally insane after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1969 of the brutal rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in Washington, D.C., according to the Lewiston Tribune.
After escaping, Hantman made his way west, Jederberg said, and hid out near Joseph under the alias Andrew Dorian. He was even married and took classes at EOU.
When federal marshals caught Hantman, he had a warrant in Oregon on charges of kidnapping, raping and sodomizing a Japanese exchange student.
Jederberg said Hantman checks a lot of boxes in this case. Senn said something in her gut "just keeps pointing to him."
But for Jederberg, catching any killer would be the cherry on top. She said the real work is about identifying the young woman and finding her remains. State police shipped the remains to a crematorium in Walla Walla, she said, but after that no one has any paperwork.
"I want to find her final site. I'm just not quite there," she said.
Jederberg also said the woman had to have family — there has to be people who knew her. If she could find the remains, maybe she could give them to Jane Doe's relatives.
"She deserves her name," Jederberg said. "It's really about getting her name for her and laying her to rest."
More InformationYou can check out the Facebook group about the case here: https://www.facebook.com/finleycreekjanedoe/
She Has A Face
By Phil Wright, La Grande Observer 5/9/2020
LA GRANDE — The team working to solve the homicide of a Jane Doe near Elgin stretching back more than 40 years received a surprise last Saturday: Images showing their mystery woman’s face.
Melinda Jederberg of La Grande, who is heading up the individuals dedicated to identifying the woman, recalled staring into that face and her eyes.
“I got goose bumps,” she said. “I got a little bit teary-eyed — a little bit — and I’m not the only one.”
The face of the Finley Creek Jane Doe came about when team member Jason Futch of Florida reached out to Anthony Redgrave of Massachusetts. Futch, who operates a podcast on cold cases, asked his friend if he would try to re-create what the woman may have looked like.
“He joined our little work group and is providing his services free of charge,” Jederberg said.
Redgrave operates Redgrave Research Forensic Services. He has been doing this work for about a year and half, he said, and comes from a fine arts background. He explained the profession debates whether to call the work facial “reconstruction” or “approximation,” but he goes with “forensic art.” Having a good piece of forensic art, he said, can make a signifiant difference in identifying someone.
“People recognize faces, and characteristics carry across families,” Redgrave said.
Re-creating the face, however, took some creativity. Redgrave had no actual skull to work with, just the digital copies of the photos the Oregon State medical examiner took of the remains after hunters found them in August 1978 in a shallow grave on an embankment of Finley Creek. And these photos were not direct shots of a forward-facing skull.
“The angles were really horrible,” he said. “Sometimes medical examiners will take horrible photos of remains.”
He tapped into his arts background to draft lines of perspectives based on the images, he said, eventually leading to a three-dimensional rendering of the skull. He also credited biological anthropologist Amy Michael who teaches at the University of New Hampshire and works with Redgrave Research Forensic Services. She provides guidance on ethnicity and age of the faces he brings to life.
From there, he said, re-creating faces takes about four or five hours, and this case was no different. He said he is a night owl and started the project at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, May 3. Later that morning, he sent the team members the video he made showing the face, including the superimposition that shows how the skull fits inside the face. He said that lets him check the work to make sure skull and facial angles line up.
Jederberg said she was shocked, surprised and impressed with the work. But she did not immediately push the images to the public via the Facebook page for the case, Finley Creek Jane Doe — Elgin, OR. Instead, the team arranged a video conference Tuesday with Dr. Veronica “Nici” Vance, forensic anthropologist for the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office.
Jederberg said that meeting proved invaluable. Vance entered Jane Doe’s image into the state’s database for missing people, Jederberg said, and Vance told the crew she would work on tracking down the cremains. After the medical examiner’s office wrapped up its work on the case all those years ago, state police shipped the bones to a crematorium in Walla Walla, where the paper trail went cold for Jederberg.
Vance, however, carries the kind of clout that could open news doors leading to the recovery of the cremains and the distant possibility of extracting DNA.
“That’s where we’re standing right now,” Jederberg said.
The group on Tuesday posted Redgrave’s forensic art on the Facebook page. Jederberg said overnight the page received roughly a hundred new followers.
“We’ve got all kinds of people saying, ‘Could it be this person?’” she said.
Followers said they are combing through images on public databases of missing people looking for possible matches to the image of a slender-faced woman with big eyes. Redgrave said this is one of the reasons he does what he does.
Even if people don’t recognize the face of a stranger, he said, they care more about a stranger once they see their face.