Preble County “Penny” Jane Doe, Eaton Ohio 1968

Redgrave Research Forensic Services has taken on the case of Preble County Jane Doe (NamUs #UP55702). Working with Detective Adam Turner of the Shelby Ohio Police Department, we are preparing to perform forensic genetic genealogy in an attempt to discover her identity. Detective Turner has nicknamed her “Preble County Penny”.

Case Synopsis

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On May 25, 1968, some children playing behind their home in Eaton, Ohio came across a skull in a water filled ditch. A few hours later, they came across partial remains from the same individual. The coroner’s examination of these remains determined she was a white woman, aged 30-50 who was estimated to be between 5ft. 2in. – 5ft. 6inch and between 130-140 lbs. No clothing or jewelry were found with her remains and she had no identifying marks.

It’s believed that her remains had been washed out of where they had been, possibly a clandestine grave where she’d been for several years, by flooding in the area the week before. Despite the best efforts of authorities, her identity was not able to be determined at that time, or since.

From Detective Adam Turner:

Regarding the comparison of “Penny” Doe to Mary Jane Vangilder

During my investigation into the disappearance of Mary Jane Croft Vangilder, I discovered an unknown Jane Doe found in Preble County, Ohio near Eaton on May 25, 1968. The body was found in a drainage ditch by some children after heavy rains saturated the area. I contacted the coroner’s office in Preble County and worked with the investigator there, Dave Lindloff. Eaton is roughly 165 miles from Shelby. Their case has sat cold and untouched since the late 1960’s.

After investigation by the coroner’s office in 1968, it was determined that the Jane Doe was roughly between 5’2”- 5’ 6” tall, and 130-140 pounds. Mary Jane was estimated by her daughter to be short, around 5’4.” Mary Jane’s daughter was unknown of her mother’s weight and estimated her to be around 150 pounds. The unknown was thought to have been there for 12 to 18 months prior to discovery, but it was later believed that the unidentified could have been dead for 10-15 years. The unknown was thought to be between 40-55 years of age.

Mary Jane disappeared in 1945 at the age of 33. If Mary Jane lived for several years after her disappearance and then died, she would have fallen in the age range listed above and could not be excluded as this Jane Doe. The coroner believed, based on the pelvic structure of the unknown, that the deceased would have had difficulties with childbirth. Although Mary Jane did have children that lived into adulthood, she lost twins at birth due to complications.

On August 28, 2019, Chief Combs and I traveled to Mound Hill Cemetery, Eaton, for the exhumation of the Preble County Jane Doe. Multiple persons from the city of Eaton were present to include Coroner Vossler, Dave Lindloff and his staff. County Commissioner, Rodney Creech was also on scene. Sean McCracken from Mysterious WV was present and took pictures and video of the exhumation as did Kelsey Kimbler from the Eaton Register Herald.

The exhumation went exceptionally well as the weather was clear.

The Sexton of the cemetery had located the grave based off the original pictures taken at the time of burial. The grave was dug via a backhoe and then by means of hand tools. Upon reaching the vault, it was discovered to be completely intact. The lid was removed and the grave was found to be dry. It was evident by markings on the inside of the vault, that water was present at sometime in the past. The bottom of the vault had what appeared to be an old body bag covering the floor. The bones of Jane Doe were underneath this material as well as a later of silt and sediment. The casket had completely disintegrated sans the (4) metal handles.

About 1.5 hours later, BCI arrived on scene and entered the hole. The fragile and brittle body bag disintegrated upon touch. The bones were then carefully photographed and extracted. BCI took both femurs as well as multiple digits of the feet and hands. Curiously, there was no skull inside the vault. After a review of the original coroners report, there was a notation that the skull was “kept in the private collection” of the original coroners investigator Tim Miller. This was news to both myself and Mr. Lindloff.

We now have a fundraiser for this case hosted on JusticeDrive. Please donate to help Penny get identified!