Authorities seek help identifying woman found dead 35 years ago
Published 1:31 pm Monday, May 15, 2023
BERRIEN COUNTY — The Michigan State Police Niles Post, in coordination with New Buffalo Police Department, Police are asking for help identifying a woman’s body who was found washed ashore in New Buffalo 35 years ago.
On April 8, 1988, an unidentified body washed ashore on the New Buffalo breakwater of Lake Michigan. The unidentified body was exhumed November 9, 2021, to collect a DNA sample for CODIS entry and forensic genetic genealogy. Dental records are on file for comparison to known missing persons as well.
Recently, the data collected in 2021 was reexamined using newer forensic methods. The results indicate the body is that of a black female. Investigators have never been able to identify her, but believed up until this point that she was a white female.
The body is further described as a middle-aged female, 40 to 60 years old, approximately 5’5” and 175 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She is thought to have been wearing a wig or extensions (braided), which had been pulled from the scalp.
Clothing worn was described as a pair of men’s size 38 denim blue jeans with a wide double-ring type, striped cloth belt. Underneath the jeans, she was wearing red, white, and blue shorts with full-length panty hose. She was not wearing a top but did have on a sandy colored front-clasped, heavy-duty brassiere. She also was wearing black zippered, top ankle boots.
During the initial autopsy, it was discovered this individual underwent a hysterectomy as she was missing her uterus, bilateral tubes, and ovaries. There’s also a singular scar stretching from her pelvis to the naval.
No other scars, marks or tattoos were present.
A forensic dental health examination indicated the overall presence of excellent dentistry. The examining doctor noted that this individual likely did not smoke nor drink alcohol excessively due to the lack of staining observed. This same doctor also believed this individual may have come from an upper socio-economic group based on the porcelain bridge replacing a front tooth. He indicated this type of work was considered experimental at the time and was probably performed within the preceding five years of her death.
During the exhumation, authorities were assisted by Western Michigan University WMed Anthropology Department, Hannah Friedlander, MSP Human Remains Analyst, and MSP Bomb Squad.
If you have any information that could help identify this individual, please contact MSP Niles Post at (269) 683-4411 or the New Buffalo Police Department (269) 469-1500.