Did a woman fall to her death off a cliff or was she murdered?

Police sketch of a caucasian female with light brown hair

Jane Doe


Gender: Female
DOB: Not available
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 127 lbs
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Light Brown
Remarks: The woman was wearing what appeared to be second-hand clothing, including a pair of men’s underwear.


When a coroner is called to the scene of an unexplained death, it is his job to identify who the “John and Jane Does” are and how they died. This is a story about the unheralded heroes of law enforcement.

A coroner in an orange jumper walking up to a swampy body of water

Searching for clues

On the morning of October 5, 1983, two lifeguards discovered the body of a young boy. He was floating in a channel near the ocean at Seal Beach, California. According to the lifeguards, the body was so badly decomposed, that it made identification impossible.

Coroner’s investigator, Joe Luckey, was sent to the scene. He found no evidence of foul play. In fact, an autopsy later revealed that the young boy had drowned. But who the boy was and where he came from posed a baffling mystery:

“It takes a while sometimes to get over the fact that you can’t identify these people. You tend to think about your own families and know that there’s somebody out there who’s missing a relative, somebody, but we don’t know who.”

Joe sent a description of the boy to every law enforcement agency in the area. Only one possible match turned up. It was of a boy who had disappeared from Fullerton, California. Fullerton was sixteen miles from where the body was discovered, but Joe still met with the boy’s parents. They told him that their son had vanished shortly after leaving for a neighborhood park. Joe searched the park for any possible clues:

“I found that there was a flood control channel adjacent to the park. I also discovered because of the rainfall the day he disappeared, that the flood control district had opened a local dam and allowed the overflow to come through that channel, raising it six feet higher than normal.”

Tragically, the young boy had fallen into the flood channel and was swept sixteen miles to Seal Beach. Blood samples later provided a positive identification. The mystery had been solved.

Cullen Ellingburgh was a coroner in Orange County at the time of the boy’s disappearance:

“A coroner is probably a good mixture of being a surgeon, a detective, and an attorney. Every day is a challenge. It’s new, a little bit of detective work all the time.”

Coroner Cullen Ellinburgh

Cullen Ellinburgh, Coroner

Cullen Ellingburgh has worked on literally thousands of cases. Some take months of painstaking research and legwork. Others are solved solely on the basis of one small piece of evidence. One case, in particular, has haunted Cullen Ellingburgh since May 18, 1987. That morning, the body of a woman in her early 20s, was found at the bottom of a steep cliff in Southern California. According to Ellingburgh, the woman had apparently fallen to her death sometime during the night:

“We weren’t sure at that point if it was an accident… or if she had been pushed. I went to the top of the cliff and there I found a small purse, a half consumed soda, and a map of Southern California.”

Strangely, there was nothing else in her purse. But the map led Cullen to the last person who saw her alive:

“There was a phone number on the map. The phone number was that of a cab company. And the cab company was contacted and they indicated they had a fare, picked up from the area and dropped off at the area of the Dana Point cliffs at about three or four that morning.”

Coroner looking through a small bag and map

Clues were found at the top of the cliff

When Cullen interviewed the cab driver, he described a woman who fit the Dana Point “Jane Doe.” She had wanted to go to Laguna Beach, but didn’t have enough cash. According to Cullen, the cab driver agreed to take her as far as the money would go:

“The only thing the taxi driver said was that she had very little to say other than that. She was very quiet and he didn’t notice anything really unusual about her.”

The next morning, the young woman’s body was found at the base of the cliff. She was 5’8” tall and weighed 127 pounds. She had light brown hair, brown eyes, and was wearing what appeared to be second-hand clothing, including a pair of men’s underwear.

For Cullen Ellingburgh, the case of the unidentified Jane Doe has never left him:

“This is the first Jane Doe that I’ve had that I was unable to identify. And I’ve continued to work this case and occasionally a new lead will come in and I’ll follow up. But… to this date I have been unsuccessful. And there isn’t a week that I don’t go by the point without thinking about this lady. I want to identify her and find out who she is and who she belongs to.”

Update: After remaining a mystery for 26 years, this case has finally been solved. The remains have been positively identified, thanks to DNA testing, as those of Holly Jo Glynn. Holly was 21 years old when she died. Her death was ruled a suicide.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season seven with Robert Stack and in season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. Anonymous

    That Taxi was expensive. Even today you can get an Uber for cheaper than that. It is unfortunate her life ended the way it did. There are resources in that area that would have helped her. I just feel bad for her going through that state of mind.


  2. dian

    How come her parents didn’t report her missing and why didn’t they look for her all these years?


  3. Charles

    Suicide is a very real thing, but I don’t think it can be ruled out that she may have been thrown off the cliff. She was wandering aimlessly at 4 AM; that alone can be quite dangerous. I doubt we will ever know what truly happened? I do wonder if her friends who were searching for her ever gave any information as to what her personality was like, which could maybe give some ideas as to if she was prone to depression etc.


  4. Me

    Really weird how she was from nearby Whittier and she remained unsolved for all these years. Honestly living here in Orange County all my life I feel like it truly is a little bubble and a murder in one of the rich areas like Dana Point is always a big shock (no so much when the murder is here in Anaheim or Santa Ana or another area full of Mexican gangs). Anyways, the girl (According to Google) was ffrom Whittier which isn’t far from Dana Point (an hour or so); I’m surprised nobody here in SoCal identified her earlier, I’m sh ocked it took almost 30 long years.


    • Pam

      I lived in Whittier from 1973 until I graduated high school in 1977. During that period, I was pretty much a loner. If Holly was like myself, no man in her life, and had only one or two really good friends she kept in touch with, I can see her not being missed if she had left the area to move somewhere else. (if that’s what she told any friends she had). She wouldn’t have been missed for at least a month or two.


  5. Jonathan

    It is possible the taxi driver had lied about the details he gave or he’s telling the truth and dropped her off at the spot he claims. One theory is that someone attempted to abduct her and she climbed the fence to get away and either fell or was pushed off. Or she was done with life and took her own life. Sadly only her and God knows what transpired that morning. My thoughts and prayers are with her family .


  6. Picketwire

    I know dana point very well and the location that she was reportedly dropped off doesnt make sense to me. The Charthouse restaurant is out on the point, well away from Pacific Coast Hwy…the route to Laguna Beach. Why would the taxi driver turn off of PCH and drive about 1/3 of a mile, down Green Lantern Street, driving right past Cannons (another popular restaurant that was there at the time) and drop her at a virtual dead end with nothing around except the Charthouse and a dirt road along the point? It seems pretty confirmed she killed herself but I think the Taxi guy lied.


    • Picketwire

      btw I’ve been following this story for years…am into mysteries…there are two other interesting unsolved cases in Dana Point…the Original Night Stalker killing of the Harringtons, and the Arlene Hoffman case – she was killed in her own home my an arrow and the killer took the arrow!


  7. nought

    I’m troubled by all the unanswered questions. It looks like Glynn’s family is refusing to talk about her to anyone, and I haven’t been able to find information on what she was doing in the midrange time preceding her death. Why was she carrying a purse stolen in 1975? Why did she phone for a taxi to pick her up at a hotel she wasn’t staying at? Why did she want to take a taxi to Laguna Beach in the middle of the night instead of taking a much cheaper bus in the morning? Why were her remains cremated and the ashes scattered at sea when the remains hadn’t been identified? There are a thousand other questions that cause this case to make no sense at all.


  8. Chanita

    Did She Really Committee Suicide Or Was She Really Murdered?


  9. Karen Oberbroeckling

    The jane doe looks like my missing sister Theresa Vernell Jones d.o.b February 2 1964 date missing from Alvin Texas unsolved 1980


  10. redpillneo

    aww thank you francine. still so many questions remaining though. and yes i saw her story on UM here first


  11. Francine McMillen

    First thing I wanna Thank Red Pill Neo
    Without whom Dana Point Jane Doe would still not have her
    name Holly Glynn.Unidentified almost 28 years.Might not have
    ever been Identified if it wasn’t for his relentless persistance.He is
    a great investigator and Slueth .I haven’t got the words to say how
    much I appreciate all his work and effort.
    I met Holly about 1980 thru Denise a friend from
    La Serna High School when she invited me to go to Hunington
    Beach with her and Holly and Jeanette we took the bus I remember
    we saw a dead seal washed up on the beach.
    On the way back we took a wrong bus and got lost…………
    after that I started hanging around “thier group” at lunch.
    Jeanette and Holly had been best friends since 2nd grade.
    My thoughts of Holly: she had what we said back then
    “Bitchen” hair! She was very pretty and had a smoking hot body!
    She was mello she din’t get loud or cause scenes she embarassed
    easily she was a little dramatic emotionaly she took things hard
    too hard she was sensitive, delicate and frail not sickly,
    but not strong or tuff.
    She always looked almost perfect never looked dissheveled or
    unkempt. We had a group of friends that hung out on the week
    ends too and that have over the years kept in touch or reunited
    that miss her not being arouund and growing old with us.
    She has many people who miss her.
    She was cared about by many.
    May she rest in peace.


  12. Okori



  13. okoro



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