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Authorities hope to identify a woman found strangled in Lake Panasoffkee, Florida.
Lake Panasoffkee lies in the heart of the vast Florida wetlands. Crossing the lake’s eastern shore is Interstate 75, which connects Florida with the rest of the Southeast. On February 19, 1971, two teenagers were hiking along the Interstate, heading north from Tampa, when they noticed the outline of a human form in the shallow water. Authorities retrieved the badly decomposed body of a young woman. She appeared to have been strangled: a man’s size 36 belt was still wrapped around her throat.
Investigators determined that the woman may have been in her late teens or early twenties. She had no identification and had been dead for approximately three weeks. They were unable to find the killer, nor determine the woman’s identity. No one came forward to claim the body. After six months, the young woman was laid to rest beneath a small metal marker that simply read, “Jane Doe – 1971”
Ten years later, Jamie Adams became the Sheriff of Sumter County. He began to review the department’s unsolved cases, and was particularly disturbed by the murder of this young woman:
A year after he took office, Sheriff Adams officially re-opened the case. He obtained a court order to have the body exhumed. Dr. William Maples, one of the nation’s foremost forensic anthropologists, was brought in to assist with the new investigation:
Sheriff Adams next contacted Linda Galeener, a forensic artist renowned for her ability to create accurate composite drawings based on skeletal remains:
Next, Sheriff Adams asked Linda to create age regression drawings of how the victim might have appeared at the age of twelve and at the age of six. According to Jamie Adams, this technique had never before been used in law enforcement:
Sheriff Adams has mailed flyers to more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada. He has contacted hundreds of hospitals, and followed up hundreds of leads. Still, the identity of Little Miss Panasoffkee remains a mystery.
The young woman was 5’2” tall, weighed about 100 pounds and was approximately 20 years old. In addition to the “Watson Jones” surgical technique that had been performed on her ankle, the young woman had extensive dental work, including crowns, caps and fillings. The examination also revealed that she had given birth to at least one child. These clues suggest that the victim was well cared for and may have left a family behind.