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After 2nd Exhumation, Half Century Cold Case Closer To IDing Jane Doe

Patch logo Patch 7/1/2022 Ellyn Santiago

HAMDEN, CT — Last month, it was hoped the grave found by investigators in a 225-year-old, time-worn and abandoned Hamden burial ground would have been the woman known as Jane Doe, the victim of an East Haven homicide 47 years ago. It wasn't.

But three weeks later, with just East Haven police and the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner at the ancient State Street Cemetery, a second exhumation was done late Friday morning.

And, this time, they found her.

East Haven’s oldest cold case was taken over by police Capt. Joseph M. Murgo and Capt. David Emerman two years ago. Their goal was to find out who she is.

On June 8, East Haven police, sleuths who've followed the case for a decade, investigators from the State’s Attorney's Office, a police chaplain, and the owners of the East Haven Memorial Funeral Home others gathered at the cemetery. Patch was on the scene.

The plan was to dig gently in the spot where investigators believe she had been buried, and then using the machine, raze the box she was buried in, called a Ziegler casket, a metal box that’s used for shipping remains. Police believed they had the right spot. And the digging began.

But the grave they found was not her. Antiquated cemetery maps were not, it turned out, reliable.

But they have her now. She has a name, and it's not Jane Doe. Soon, it's hoped, her identity will be known. And a family missing her for nearly half a century will have answers.

The body of a homicide victim found in 1975 was never identified

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In August 1975, a trucker found a body bound and wrapped in plastic in a Frontage Road drainage ditch in the area now home to CarMax. The woman, who was believed to be white or Latina, was somewhere between 18 and 28 years old, with a slight build. She'd been murdered. Her cause of death was asphyxiation; she was likely strangled to death.

She was never identified.

At the time, the town paid the East Haven Memorial Funeral Home $600 to handle her burial. And with nowhere to bury her, the State Street Cemetery in Hamden was chosen as it was home to a number of indigent burials.

Her killer was never caught, in large part because she was never identified, though there’s long been a suspect.

Murgo and Emerman were determined to find out who she is.

After extensive work to try to ID her through a piece of her pubic bone, which was ultimately unsuccessful, it was decided to find her grave.

The plan all along has been to exhume her body, and use DNA and other technologies to finally put a name to the face that’s been buried on the edge of a tangled fence.

Through all their best efforts, they did not find her the first time, but vowed to go back and use "specialized ground sonar equipment" to locate her grave, which never had a marker.

Friday, she was.

'We found her'

At 8:30 Friday morning, Murgo, Emerman, detectives from the East Haven police Investigative Services Division, along with OCME investigator Michelle Clark, went to the section of the cemetery where they were "confident" she was buried.

And a backhoe from East Haven's Department of Public Works began to dig.

Once the casket was located and opened, Murgo said the next step was to make sure the body of a woman inside was their Jane Doe. As she had been autopsied, was without a pubic bone, and was unclothed and in a body bag, "We confirmed it was her."

For Murgo and Emerman, that moment is hard to describe.

"It was an overwhelming sense of relief," Murgo said. "Just to know we're one step closer to hopefully telling a family she's been identifed."

Emerman also described a sense of relief butand also, a determination.

"A big sigh of relief that we were in the right place, the right grave and the right victim," he said. "I’m also very optimistic that hopefully we can give some closure to a family. We weren't going to give up. And we don't want to give up on the criminal case either, but determining who she is, that was the goal."

Murgo said that while, "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves since there's a lot of work that needs to be done, still, it feels good."

Much of that work now falls to the OCME and investigator Clark.

"We're now in possession of viable DNA," Murgo said. That will be extracted, sequenced and then sent out for genealogy testing, he said. Not sure of the timeframe, but previously when the public bone was tested it took a month or so.

Murgo and Emerman said the two years they've worked on the case involved a team of investigators. Det. Molly Perry, who was the lead detective, Det. Sgt. Joe Finoia, Det. Monique Colbert, Det. John Fraenza, Det. Nick Adams and Det. John Trinh. "They all deserve recognition" the police captains said.

The funeral home that buried her almost 50 years ago is still involved

Joseph Deko and James Integlia, owners of the East Haven Memorial Funeral Home were at the first exhumation, and the second.

In 1976, the town paid the funeral home to care for Jane Doe. The owner at the time was Sal Longobardi, who died in 1989. Deko said that he has very little information, as her file was understandably thin.

But Deko and Integlia both said they're committed to providing her with a proper casket and hope she'll be ID'd.

"It is very important to James and me to help identify this young woman," Deko said. "We take caring for the deceased of our community, and everyone whose family entrusts us with their loved one, very seriously."

The article After 2nd Exhumation, Half Century Cold Case Closer To IDing Jane Doe appeared first on East Haven Patch.

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