11 Jane And John Does Who Got Their Names Back In 2021

When it comes to unsolved murders, there's a particular sadness associated with Jane Doe and John Doe cases. Not only did these victims have their lives stolen from them, but their names were taken, as well. However, the lack of resolution in unidentified person cold cases seems to be slowly coming to an end. Thanks to advances in forensic technology, along with DNA samples being submitted to genealogy websites, many unidentified deceased persons are getting their names back.

From serial killers to unsolved murders to a centuries-old shipwreck, the stories of these newly identified people prove that there's hope for even the coldest of cases to be solved.

  • ‘Valentine Sally,’ Now Known To Be Carolyn Eaton, Was Found At A Popular Truck Stop On Valentine’s Day
    Photo: Carl Koppelman / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    ‘Valentine Sally,’ Now Known To Be Carolyn Eaton, Was Found At A Popular Truck Stop On Valentine’s Day

    The body of a young woman was found along Interstate 40 in Arizona on February 14, 1982, leading to her being known as "Valentine Sally." It would take nearly 40 years to identify the girl as 17-year-old Carolyn Eaton. Eaton reportedly ran away from her home in St. Louis after an argument around Christmas 1981, and was last sighted at a truck stop in Arizona.

    Patty Wilkins, a former waitress at the truck stop's diner, reported seeing a girl matching Eaton's description on February 2, 1982. The girl had come into the truck stop with a man in a cowboy hat with a peacock feather. Wilkins gave Eaton some aspirin after she mentioned having a toothache. Wilkins later said:

    I could have pulled her off that truck... I could have forced her to stay with me. I could have called 911. I could have done a million different things that I didn’t do.

    The teenager's body was eventually found about a mile from the truck stop. Wilkins said that after the autopsy, investigators told her the aspirin was still on Eaton's tooth.

  • Francis Alexander Was Identified As One Of The 33 Victims Of John Wayne Gacy

    Forty-five years after his death, the remains of Francis Wayne Alexander were finally identified. Alexander was 21 and a recent Chicago transplant when he was murdered by serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Alexander's remains had been found in Gacy's crawlspace back in December 1978, but it wasn't until his family was contacted to give DNA that his identity was finally revealed.

    Alexander's family wasn't initially told he was one of Gacy's victims, but his family reportedly put the pieces together. Alexander's half-sister Carolyn Sanders told the Chicago Sun-Times, "My initial thought was Gacy, and with that going through your head of your sibling, it’s excruciating."

    Alexander's family had filed a missing persons report in California decades earlier, not realizing he was still living in Chicago.

  • An Arrest Was Made When Evelyn Colon Was Identified After 45 Years
    Photo: Carbon County Police Department / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    An Arrest Was Made When Evelyn Colon Was Identified After 45 Years

    In 1976, 15-year-old Evelyn Colon disappeared after becoming pregnant by her 19-year-old boyfriend, Luis Sierra. The two had left town without warning, and Sierra later wrote to Colon's family, telling them she wanted nothing to do with them.

    On December 10, 1976, the remains of an unidentified woman were found in three suitcases under a Pennsylvania bridge. One of the suitcases also contained an unborn fetus. Referred to as "Beth Doe" for decades, the woman's identity was finally confirmed to be Colon's, and Luis Sierra was arrested for homicide on March 31, 2021.

  • The 'Sumter County Does' Had Recently Met Each Other While Hitchhiking
    Photo: Carl Koppelman / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    The 'Sumter County Does' Had Recently Met Each Other While Hitchhiking

    The bodies of a man and woman were found off of Interstate 95 in Sumter County, SC, on August 9, 1976, but they were never identified. For decades, little was known about the "Sumter County Does" other than that they had both been shot in the chest, back, and head with the same gun. Based on items found on them, they appeared to be traveling together, and from their similar complexions, investigators theorized they might be related.

    In 2007, the bodies were exhumed for DNA testing and a match finally came in 2021 thanks to the DNA Doe Project. The individuals were 25-year-old Pamela Buckley and 30-year-old James Freund. Both had been reported missing by their families in 1975, Buckley from Minnesota and Freund from Colorado. They had likely met while hitchhiking. Investigators stated they had several persons of interest related to the murders.

  • A Woman Who Mysteriously Drowned At A Hotel In 1966 Was Identified - But Her Mystery Companion Is Still Unknown

    On July 5, 1966, the body of a young woman was found in the swimming pool of the Ropers Motel in Pecos, TX. She had checked in just hours earlier with a man who appeared to be her husband, under the names, "Mr. and Mrs. Russell Battoun." As an ambulance took her away, her companion said he was going to go to the hospital. Instead, he checked out of the motel and fled the scene, never to be seen again.

    The girl became known as the "Pecos Jane Doe" until DNA testing was conducted in 2020. A year later, the body was confirmed to be that of then-17-year-old Jolaine Hemmy of Celina, KS. It was because of a DNA sample given by one of Hemmy's surviving sisters that investigators were able to finally give her a name. Of her sister's reaction, Pecos Police Chief Lisa Tarango said:

    She was absolutely ecstatic... It was just as raw as it would have been 55 years ago when she went missing. It was that fresh to this family.

    While there's no evidence to suggest that Hemmy was murdered, investigators consider her death suspicious and aren't ruling out foul play.

  • John Gregory Was The First Crew Member Of An 1845 Arctic Expedition To Be Identified 

    In 1845, 129 men set out on an expedition, led by Sir John Franklin, to find and cross the Northwest Passage of the Canadian Arctic, the sought-out route to traverse between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean by ship. But the trip became known as "Franklin's lost expedition" after the two ships, and all the men, seemingly vanished into thin air.

    Over the years, many clues were found. In addition to skeletal remains, there were Inuit stories of dying white men who resorted to cannibalism and a note written in 1848 (found in 1859) indicating that the remaining survivors were going to abandon their ice-trapped ships. In 2014, the two shipwrecks themselves were finally discovered (though not in the expected location). 

    But it wasn't until 2021 that the first of the lost sailors was finally identified as Warrant Officer John Gregory, 176 years after the fateful expedition began. Gregory's remains were discovered in 1859, and DNA testing indicated that he had survived for three years in arctic conditions. He likely passed a few months after the 1848 decision to leave the ships; his remains were found next to those of two other men. He was identified through a DNA match to one of his direct descendants, Jonathan Gregory.

    Researchers are hopeful that the identification brings them one step closer to discovering what exactly happened to Franklin's lost expedition.