News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 6, 2012

Unidentified woman died from blunt force trauma, coroner says

Damage to face, decomposition making identification difficult, authorities say

TERRE HAUTE — Blunt force trauma has been ruled the cause of death in the homicide of an unidentified woman found Saturday evening near the Vigo-Clay county line about a mile north of Indiana 42.

 Vigo County Coroner Dr. Roland Kohr, a forensic pathologist, said the female had sustained blunt force trauma to her face. Combining that with the decomposition of her body makes a positive identification of the woman dependent on input from the public.

“If we get a set of dental records to work with, we can try for a match,” Kohr told the Tribune-Star on Monday.

Kohr conducted an autopsy of the woman’s body Monday morning.

He has also called in forensic entomologist Dr. Neal Haskell to collect “bug evidence” from the victim and the crime scene to narrow the time frame for her death.

Haskell is a professor of forensic science and biology at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer. He has worked as a consultant to hundreds of law enforcement agencies in North America and Europe, and his work has been featured on several television programs.

Kohr said it will take Haskell a couple of weeks to have the woman’s time of death narrowed down.

The Vigo County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the homicide, and Chief Deputy Clark Cottom said investigators are being cautious about the information released to the public.

“We don’t want to say anything that would cause someone to rule out a possible identification for this woman,” Cottom said, explaining that the possible time frame for her death, as well as her physical and clothing descriptions, are intentionally vague for now.

Her age has been estimated at 20 to 40 years. Her height is in the range of 5-feet-3 to 5-feet-5 inches tall. She weighs 130 to 160 pounds, is Caucasian, and has brown corn-rowed braids that extend past her shoulders. When her body was found, the woman was wearing black pants and black shoes with white soles.

“She is somebody’s daughter, and somebody has a daughter, or a sister, or a girlfriend, or a wife, or someone who is missing,” Cottom said. “And we would say to the public, ‘If you have someone who you haven’t seen in a while, you need to check on the well-being of that individual.’ And if you can’t determine the well-being of the person, you need to contact law enforcement.”

The woman may not be from Vigo County, Cottom said, and police agencies in surrounding counties have been contacted to check for missing person reports.

Vigo County has two current missing person reports for women, Cottom said, but as of Monday, it was not believed that the victim fits the profile of either of those adult women.

The woman’s body was found in a remote area off the west side of Hyde Road/Clay County Road 700 West. A fisherman driving home along the road saw the body and notified police at about 6 p.m. Saturday.

Cottom said it is difficult to say how long the body had been where it was found, but he estimated it could have been a month or more, or as recently as a week.

“It doesn’t surprise us that she wasn’t seen until now, because the foliage would have been denser a few weeks ago and hidden the body from view,” Cottom said.

Anyone with information about a possible identification for the woman should contact the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department at 812-232-3801.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@

tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.



You Can Help

• Anyone with information about a possible identification for the woman should contact the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department at 812-232-3801

 

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