JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore. – A decades-long cold case finally catches a break, as the Josephine County Sheriff’s office identifies the DNA of a young girl found in the woods in 1971.
“Young women just don’t die of natural causes in the woods,” Cold Case Volunteer, Detective Ken Selig said.
In 1971, a father and son discovered the skeletal remains of a young girl in the woods near Redwood Highway just west of Cave Junction. Now 47-years later, the girl has been identified as Annie Lehman from Aberdeen, Washington.
“It’s bitter because of what happened to her, and like I said just because she’s been identified doesn’t mean the case is done. We will do some reevaluations and see where we go from here,” Cold Case Volunteer, Detective Wes Curtis said.
Back in 2004, forensic science helped to create a facial reconstruction of the remains in hopes tips would come in. They did, but nothing definitive.
“We would have leads, possible missing people, I would collect DNA from people I would interview people involved who had missing people or persons in their family, a lot of time there was hope that we had found Annie but those leads didn’t pan out,” Curtis said.
It wasn’t until last year that her d-n-a was submitted to the non-profit the DNA Doe Project.
“They spend hundreds if not thousands of hours pouring over genealogical records and ancestral records for the potential of people who share Annie’s DNA,” Selig said.
The project was able to make a full match with a sister to confirm the girl they found was Annie Lehman. They say Annie had gone missing from Washington in the winter or spring of 1971. After speaking with the family, investigators say they believe Annie disappeared under troubling circumstances, but the sheriff’s office is still looking into any possible leads.
“When you look at these cases, everyone has a theory, and I spoke earlier about the probabilities… So we’re weighing all of those probabilities to see how they match with the theory of the case,” Selig said.
Now that authorities know who Annie is, they’re hoping they’re one step closer to solving her case. Annie Lehman would have turned 65 this year. The sheriff’s office says the family is grateful they’ve finally got Annie back after all these years.
If you have any information concerning Annie Marie Lehman and her activities in the years of 1970 to 1971, you’re asked to contact the sheriff’s office.
Devin Gooden graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a Master’s degree in Sports Journalism.
She has spent most of her life in Atlanta, Georgia and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in Business Management.
When she’s not reporting, Devin practices yoga, reads thriller novels and loudly cheers for her beloved Georgia Bulldawgs.