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Weld County Sheriff's Office trying to shed new light on oldest cold case

jane doe weld county pic.jpg
Posted at 5:40 AM, Nov 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-07 07:40:21-05

WELD COUNTY, Colo.— The Weld County Sheriff’s Office is using a newer technology to try and shed a new light on its oldest cold case.

The investigator is charge, who was hired as the agency’s first full-time cold case detective in 2020, sat down with Denver7 to talk about the case, and how he’s hoping someone who knew the victim will come forward now that genetic genealogy is being used in the investigation.

November 19, 1973, is the day investigators say the skeletal remains of a woman believed to be between the ages of 23 and 25 were found in Weld County. Nearly 49 years after the discovery, no one has come forward saying they know who the woman is, or how she died. All investigators have is a small binder of information calling her "Jane Doe."

Investigators say hunters found the woman’s skeletal remains about a half-mile north of the Highway 66 bridge over the St. Vrain Creek, which is about four miles west of Platteville.

Last week, the sheriff’s office shared a post on Facebook saying the woman was possibly between the ages of 23 and 25, around five feet two inches tall and was wearing red short-sleeved sweater and brown slacks when she died. They also posted a picture of a facial reconstruction completed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation of the woman as she may have looked in 1973.

Cold Case Detective Byron Kastilahn is trying to shed new light on his oldest cold case. He’s hoping a newer technology the Weld County Sheriff’s Office recently started using, called genetic genealogy, will finally help him find out who this woman was.

“We provide them with DNA or bones, like a femur or molar, they extract the DNA and they’ll send it to the lab for them to do genetic genealogy on that," he said.

Kastilahn says it’s up to his partners at CBI to conduct the genetic genealogy, but it was up to him to exhume the woman’s remains from Linn Grove Cemetery in Greeley earlier this year so they could do so. Once the DNA is extracted from the bones, it’s up to CBI to create a family tree that connects relatives to a common ancestor.

Kastilahn says investigators used a website called GEDmatch to try and find those relatives.

“This website, you can submit your DNA, spit in the tube, like Ancestry or 23andMe,” said Kastilahn. “That’s usually what they use to link the possible cousin or someone like that.”

Genetic genealogy was used to help crack the high-profile Golden State Killer case. Joseph DeAngelo was sentenced to multiple terms of life in prison without parole in 2020, four decades after he raped multiple women and girls and murdered several people in California. Detective Kastilahn is hopeful genetic genealogy will help him find new clues, or even help solve the 30 cold cases he’s currently working on.

“I’m optimistic in this new technology. I can see the potential of it and how helpful it will be,” said Kastilahn.

If you recognize the female in this case, you’re being asked to call the Weld County Sheriff's Office at 970-356-4015 or Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.