At around 4:30PM on December 20, 1976, 14-year-old Kenneth Jumper Jr., a student from the nearby Weatherly High School in the small town of White Haven, Pennsylvania, made a horrific discovery. While checking a series of traplines he had set alongside the Lehigh river, he noticed a cluster of shapes sticking up out of the snow and reeds. He approached the nearest shape, a dark, round object propped up against a rock, and to his horror, found himself looking at a human head. The ears and nose had been cut away and thick, dark hair framed the face.
A few feet from the head Jumper Jr. discovered the body of a full-term female fetus strewn amongst the reeds of the frosted riverbank. Kenneth ran to his home on Tannery Road in Kidder Township as fast as he could to tell his older brother, Richard, what he had found. In disbelief, Richard made his way to the Lehigh riverbank to see for himself and after confirming his younger brothers’ findings, told his father, Kenneth Jumper. Sr, who climbed into his pickup truck to inform the local police.
When police arrived on the scene, they found three suitcases that they believed had been tossed from the overpass 300ft above, probably from a vehicle traveling westbound along Interstate-80 between the Carbon County and Luzerne County Line. They estimated that the killer had likely thrown the suitcases over the side of the bridge under the cover of night, expecting them to sink in the river, but missed his mark. The suitcases instead hit the frozen ground and exploded on impact, causing the head and fetus to tumble out onto the ground.
A sketch of the scene in the police report details that the head was found next to a rock, the buttocks a couple of feet away and the fetus just a few feet further.
The two additional pieces of luggage had remained intact and were still zipped shut, they had been padded with newspaper, straw and packing foam. The suitcase nearest the Lehigh river contained the arms and legs, and the other, containing the torso, was found approximately 5 feet away.
The torso and other appendages were wrapped in pages from the September 26 issue of the New York Sunday. The newspaper was so weathered by the elements that police were unable to identify it during their initial inspection, but the pages were later identified and traced back to the North Jersey Area. A trip from North Jersey to White Haven by car is around 150 miles and would take just under 2.5 hours via the I-476 N and just under three hours via the I-80W or I-95 plus I-80W.
The remains of the slain young woman and her full-term fetus were transported to Ginaden Huetten Hospital in Lehighton. On 23 December, assistant medical officer, Dr. Halbert Fillinger, performed an autopsy. The examination took three hours in total, and he determined that the cause of death was manual strangulation. Dr. Fillinger noted that the woman had been shot in the neck post-mortem before her head and appendages were severed with a fine serrated tool or instrument- likely to make the body manageable enough to transport. The tool used to dissect the body was never identified. The police were later quoted as saying that the killer was not exactly a surgeon, however, the dismemberment was not exactly slapdash. The young woman’s breasts had been severed from her chest, and just like the ears and nose, were never recovered. The fetus was not mutilated in any way, aside from any accidental cuts from the dismemberment of the victim. The autopsy revealed that the unidentified woman had been raped and was strangled to death approximately 7 – 8 hours before her remains were found.
She had no I.D, nor any identifying documents on her person. Police were tasked with the job of identifying the victim from only the body itself and the items found with it. The decedent was officially referred to as Incident No. N3-27244. She was later given the place holder name: Beth Doe.
Beth Doe was white, with brown hair and eyes, she was 4”11 – 5”4.
She was estimated to be around 15 – 25 years old at the time of her murder and weighed 140 – 150lbs. Despite her young age she had a lot of dental issues. She had two scars on her left leg, one scar over five inches long above her heel and another two-inch scar further up on her calf.
In her left-hand Beth Doe clutched a series of letters and numbers scrawled in ink along the thenar on the inside of her palm. Investigators would never figure out the meaning of the characters. The letters, WSR, were legible, but the numbers that followed were more difficult to identify. To the right of the letters was either the number 4 or 7 and slightly beneath in the sequence was the number 4 or 5.
Beth Doe's fingerprints were sent to the FBI several days after the autopsy but turned up nothing in the system. A few days later a sketch of the victim was produced with the assistance of a dental specialist and physical anthropologist. The sketch was circulated in newspapers, but nobody could identify the young woman. A dozen missing women would be ruled out as Beth Doe over the years.
In 2007 Beth Doe was exhumed and transported to a lab at the University of Texas Centre for Human Identification in Fort Worth. A DNA profile was developed using Isotopic testing, which usually involves extracting DNA from teeth, bones, and hair, and was entered into an international database. Unfortunately, the entry turned up no results. An earlier article in The Pocono Record, published Tuesday, December 28, 1976, just eight days after the discovery, reported that police believed the decedent to be of Spanish or Italian parentage. Other articles of the time report a less specific Mediterranean heritage. The DNA profile revealed that she lived in the American South, quite possibly Tennessee, for around 5 - 10 years before she was killed.
In 2015, Beth Doe’s case was reviewed once again, and a new image of the victim was created and circulated online. In April of 2019, a woman named Jane Foust contacted the Pennsylvania Police saying she thought the unidentified woman may be a girl named Maggie Cruz.
In 1974, a sixteen-year-old foster child named Madelyn "Maggie" Cruz ran away from her Framingham, Massachusetts home. There were rumors that she was pregnant. Nobody ever heard from Cruz again.
Images of Maggie Cruz were published alongside articles about the new lead. The photographs of the teenager looked strikingly like the composite sketches of Beth Doe. Pennsylvania police thought they finally had the identity of Beth Doe, however late September, a statement was released to the public ruling out Maggie Cruz as the victim. Cruz had been contacted and was alive and well.
The case remained unsolved for over four decades.
This month, the identity of the Beth Doe was revealed as 15-year-old Evelyn Colon. Colon was identified through her nephew’s DNA using genealogy services. Luis Colon Jr. was born a few years after Beth Doe was murdered.
"About four years ago, I heard about the DNA stuff and I wanted to see hey, this would be an awesome tool if I could connect with family and specifically, connect with my cousin, because I knew she had a kid, or cousins, multiple children, or her," said the victim's Nephew.
He was shocked when instead of tracking down his living relatives, he was instead notified that he was connected to a homicide victim. The family said they had never heard of the case of Beth Doe. Baby Doe, Evelyn's daughter, who was full-term at the time of the murder, has been named Emily Grace by the family.
Evelyn Colon’s family believed that she had ran away from her home in New Jersey to start a life elsewhere. She was pregnant by her 19-year-old boyfriend, Luis Sierra, and the pair had moved in together. Evelyn’s mother would often visit them at their apartment, but one day they were no longer there and neighbours informed her that the young couple had moved out. Soon after Evelyn’s mother received a letter written in Spanish, assuring her that everything was okay, and that Evelyn had given birth to a boy. The letter said she no longer wanted to have contact with her family and that was the last they ever heard. Evelyn could not write, so it was assumed Sierra wrote the letter himself. Her family admitted that they believed the contents of the letter and hoped that one day Evelyn would get in touch- but she never did. She was never reported missing for this reason.
Luis Sierra, who is now 63 years old, was arrested in Ozone Park in Queens, NYC on March 31, 2021, and charged with one count of criminal homicide. When initially questioned Sierra claimed he didn’t even know an Evelyn Colon. Later he confessed that the two lived together but said he hadn’t seen her since he left for work one day and returned to an empty apartment. Sierra is currently being held in NYC, but is soon expected to be extradited to Carbon County.