Jane "Annie" Doe identified as Anne Lehman in 47-year-old cold case

Jane "Annie" Doe identified as Anne Lehman in 47-year-old cold case. (Images Courtesy Josephine County Sheriff's Office)

Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel announced Thursday that a "Jane Annie Doe" - the victim in a cold case dating back to August of 1971 - has now been identified as Anne Marie Lehman, of Aberdeen, Washington after a "confirmed match with her full sister's DNA." Lehman would have turned 65 years old this year.

Cold case investigators learned that Anne, "Annie" a nickname her family affectionately used for her, Lehman was born and raised in southwestern Washington State - primarily in Aberdeen, according to authorities. Investigators believe Lehman went missing from the area in the winter or spring of 1971 under troubling circumstances. According to the Josephine County Sheriff's Office, some say Lehman was a runaway, but others feel she was abducted and traded to a criminal human trafficking organization. These claims, how she ended up in Josephine County, and the cause and manner of her death remain under investigation.

"We're leaning towards that there was foul play, that Annie did not die of natural causes, and we're still investigating the cause and manner and circumstances in which she came to Josephine County," said retired Det. Sgt. Ken Selig.

On August 18th, 1971, a traveling father and his son stopped along Redwood Highway, near milepost 35 in Josephine County to spend the night. The next morning, stepping into the surrounding woods, they discovered the skeletal remains of a young woman, according to the Josephine County Sheriff's Office report on the case. At the time, investigators "did all they could to identify who the remains belonged to, the cause and manner of death, and how the remains came to be in Josephine County." However, investigative leads were exhausted.

The case became "inactive," placed in storage, and simply listed as "Jane Doe-Josephine County 17-940."

An update in the case wouldn't come for another 33 years - almost to the date. In August of 2004, new forensic science allowed investigators to put a face on Jane Doe. Forensic Artist and Clackamas County Sheriff's Deputy Joyce Nagy completed a clay facial reconstructions of the victim. It was then that Nagy also gave her a nickname, "Jane Annie Doe," because she felt the likeness she created "displayed features inspiring the name "Annie," according to the JCSO report.

Investigators distributed the image of Jane "Annie" Doe nationwide, resulting in multiple leads that kept the case active for a few more years.

Then, in late-2016, forensic isotope analysis of Jane Annie Doe's hair, teeth, and bones indicated she was most likely from the northeast portion of the United States and migrated along the northern U.S. border to the Pacific Northwest, according to the Sheriff's Office report. This revelation, along with a new forensic drawing of what Jane Annie Doe may have looked like, was again published nationwide. More leads were generated, with one particular lead having strong similarities to a Massachusetts missing person. However, those leads failed to make a DNA match.

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In February of 2017, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, funded and sponsored a case study of this Josephine County Sheriff’s Office investigation.

In November of 2018, Sheriff’s Cold Case Investigator and retired Major Crimes Unit Detective Sergeant Ken Selig, received news that at the request of the NCMEC and the DNA Doe Project, DNA from Jane Annie Doe was submitted to the DNA Doe Project by Dr. Nici Vance of the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office. The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office had assumed custody of her remains in 2013.

The DNA Doe Project is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization, which uses donated funds to analyze DNA from John and Jane Does to compare with GEDmatch (a public genetic genealogy database) to identify them through their “DNA-cousins”.

The DNA Doe Project was instrumental in identifying Annie. Forensic analyst and Project Manager Cairenn Builder said this was one of their most challenging cases because the majority of Annie's DNA matches led to distant, international cousins.

After finding her fifth cousin in New Zealand, Builder said volunteers were able to build Annie's family tree and track down her sister in Washington state.

After weeks of careful analysis and painstaking ancestral research, Jane Annie Doe’s family was traced to relatives in England, New Zealand and Canada. In February of this year, DNA Doe Project volunteers were able to notify Selig that a potential match was found with a sister living in Washington State. As a result, Selig, with the help of NCMEC, established contact with the sister and obtained a DNA sample from her. It was a match.

"When annie's sister's DNA came back confirming her identity it was really a relief," said Builder.

Aside from DNA, Builder said they found other clues Annie may have left behind before she died.

"She has a ring that she had carved her initials into-- AL -- and so it seems like she was sending us a message from beyond telling us a little bit of a clue about who she was," said Builder. "I'm really happy that we got the opportunity to let her have her name back."

For anyone who knows of any information regarding Anne "Annie" Marie Lehman, who was 16 at the time of her disappearance, and her activities in the years of 1970 and 1971, the JCSO asks that you contact Detective Ken Selig at (541) 474-5123, in reference to case #71-940.

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