State police investigators next week will begin their efforts to crack four local unsolved deaths on the heels of forensic strides made in five other cold cases across the state.
The Times Leader reported last month that the unidentified remains of four people, whose deaths are considered either homicides or highly suspicious, will be exhumed Monday from their burial sites in cemeteries in Courtdale and Hanover Township in a widespread effort to identify the victims using modern forensic tools.
Investigators say in a news release Friday facial reconstructions and/or chemical isotope testing have been completed in cases in five counties, including a woman whose skeletal remains were discovered in 1994 during a mine reclamation project in Sugarloaf Township.
According to the Times Leader archives, the skeleton was found in the woods near a dirt road about 300 yards from Tomhicken Road. The woman is believed to be between the ages of 34 and 47, according to investigators.
Similar advances have been made in cases in Carbon, Lebanon, Monroe and York counties, investigators say.
State Police Cpl. Thomas McAndrew identified the cold cases and will lead the re-opened investigations through a federal grant provided by the National Institute of Justice. He will be assisted by renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle and a team of colleagues from the University of South Florida.
The local cases:
• Interstate 81 Jane Doe (1970)
Authorities on Sept. 28, 1970, discovered the nude, badly decomposed body of a woman about a mile south of the Nuangola exit on Interstate 81, about 35-feet into a wooded area on the west side of the southbound lane, according to newspaper reports at the time.
• Interstate 80 Jane Doe (1973)
A woman’s body was found Aug. 9, 1973, along Interstate 80 in Black Creek Township wrapped in a blanket and doused with sulfuric acid. The woman, a black female, was between the the ages of 21 and 30, was about 5 feet tall and weighed about 100 lbs., according to a newspaper report the following day.
• Bear Creek John Doe (1979)
Two men on their way to a fishing hole in Bear Creek Township on May 28, 1979, discovered the partially decomposed remains of a white male between the ages of 25 and 4o who had been shot in the chest. His death was ruled a homicide.
• Baby Boy John Doe (1980)
A worker unloading trash at the now-closed West Side Landfill discovered the body of an infant boy among the trash. Investigators believe the boy was discarded 24 to 72 hours after being born. His death was ruled a homicide.
The baby boy’s burial site is marked with a small stone plaque in an isolated corner of St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Courtdale. The other victims are buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Hanover Township.
The exhumations are slated to begin at both sites at 10 a.m.
State police ask anyone with information on the cases or victims to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-4PA-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted online at www.crimewatchpa.com/crimestoppers.