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Reveal: Mystery of Mountain Jane Doe

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Michael I Schiller
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Reveal
Investigators dig up an unidentified murder victim, 45 years after she was buried, in an attempt to give her back her name. This Reveal story is one of thousands from the crisis of America’s unidentified dead. ";

In rural Kentucky, a cold case is reopened after 45 years, and investigators dig up an unidentified murder victim in an attempt to give her back her name.

The exhumation leads to a series of unexpected revelations about who she was and why she might have been killed. Her case speaks to the complexity – and importance – of opening cold cases and using DNA science to try to solve them.

There currently are more than 10,000 unidentified men and women in the U.S. In the summer of 1969, a young woman was found dead off a remote mountain trail in Harlan, Kentucky. She’d been stabbed multiple times.

Her identity was a mystery, so locals referred to her as Mountain Jane Doe. Decades later, a woman from the area takes up the cause of identifying the murdered woman, and her quest for answers leads investigators to a hillside grave and a DNA lab, bringing some long-awaited answers.

But as one mystery is solved, another remains unanswered: Who killed her? Reveal producer Michael I Schiller introduces us to a daughter who never knew her mom and who’s now determined to find the person who killed her, even if it means confronting some dark family secrets.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.

For more, check out our website and subscribe to our podcast.