Investigators exhumed two bodies from a rural Pittsburg County cemetery Tuesday with the hope that new testing will lead to identification of the pair found dead 24 years ago.
The two bodies — a man and a woman — were found by a guardrail under a tree near Crowder Point on April 9, 1995, by a man who was riding his four-wheeler, according to a report in the April 10, 1995, edition of the McAlester News-Capital.
Despite a nationwide effort at the time, the bodies have not been identified — but the case is open again.
“With today’s modern technology and some new testing that is available, we are going to exhume the bodies and get the DNA and whatever else we need for the medical examiner to do some testing and see if we can identify them,” Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris said.
The case was reopened as part of a cold case investigative unit Morris formed in December 2017 that is led by retired McAlester Assistant Police Chief George Scott.
Morris said Scott took it upon himself to contact the medical examiner’s office to set up the exhuming and DNA testing of the two bodies.
McAlester Police Department Capt. Det. Don Hass — who was the Pittsburg County Sheriff in 1995 — said he hopes the new testing will help identify the bodies in the now 24-year-old case.
“They really didn’t test for DNA back then or have the database to identify missing people through DNA, but they do now,” Hass said. “I think that anything they can do to try and find out who they were, it’s better than what we got now — which is nothing.”
A nationwide bulletin was issued after the bodies were discovered in 1995 in hopes to gather leads to identify the pair — known as Jane Doe and John Doe.
But numerous tips from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas did not lead to conclusive identifications.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation created a forensic facial reconstruction with clay faces of the pair — also yielding no results.
“We did that and had posters put out and we never found out who they were,” Hass said.
Investigators told the News-Capital in 1995 that the bodies were at least two weeks old and were badly decomposed when they were discovered. Investigators speculated on the pair's origin and believed they were killed and dumped by travelers from nearby U.S. Highway 69.
Both victims were white between the ages of 18 and 23 years old, investigators said at the time. John Doe was believed to be 5-feet, 7-inches tall, of medium build, and with short, light brown or blonde hair with tattoos on both of his arms. Jane Doe was described as being 5-feet, 6-inches tall of slender build, with long light brown or blonde hair.
Investigators with the medical examiner’s office said both were killed by gunshot, with the man being shot once in the chest and the woman being shot at least two times in the chest.
After seven months, the bodies were buried with "John Doe" and "Jane Doe" grave markers in the Dorsey Cemetery on the north side of Lake McAlester.
“It has come to a point where all the evidence required to make an identification has been documented,” then-PCSO Chief Criminal Investigator Don Fools told the News-Capital in November 1995. “Our agency felt like that these individuals needed to be temporarily laid to rest.”
Fools said the burials were to be conducted with the expectation that the remains will someday be disinterred when family members are found.
In December 2018, then-Pittsburg County District Judge James Bland granted a petition for exhumation that was made by District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan.
The petition stated, “because there is an absence of scientific evidence and comparison information, the State is requesting exhumation of the decedent(s) which could provide dental radiographs, full body radiographs, and a DNA sample to submit for use in positive identification.”
Sullivan said he is hopeful that the exhumation yields results.
“These are people who had loved ones and those folks certainly deserve to know what happened to them and where they went,” said Sullivan. “I’m really hopeful we can provide closure to families and then if there remains justice to obtain, that we will be able to do so.”
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