JOLIET – The Will County Coroner’s Office is turning to advanced forensic DNA testing to help identify a cold case as cold as they come, possibly a century old.
The case first came to light in May 1997 after human remains were found in a pile of rubbish from the former Rust Craft Greeting Card Company following its demolition. The former Card Company at the time of its destruction was a square block in size with three stories and a basement that was a favorite spot among local homeless in the area.
The destruction of the historic factory was brought on after a fire years prior in 1992 that burned for nearly two days, causing structural damage that lead to the destruction.
As debris from the now destroyed building was cleaned, it was moved to a second location in 1995 near Rockdale. It would be there that the skeletal remains would later be found among the rubble.
Pathologists would later determine the remains had been disturbed not once, but twice before their discovery, indicating they had been present at the former Rust Craft Greeting Card Company site.
“Only partial skeletal remains were recovered, yet pathologists were still able to estimate a few things about the unknown woman,” the Coroner’s office said in a release Wednesday.
“She was determined to be between the ages of 15 and 24 years old, and to have stood between 5’ and 5’10 tall. No conclusive determinations were made about the woman’s weight, hair color, or eye color. The woman’s cause of death could also not be determined, although investigators believe that she died sometime after 1986 but prior to the Rust Craft building’s demolition.”
Since their discovery, investigators have searched for leads in the case. The remains have been analyzed by the Smithsonian Conservation Institute, University of North Texas Center for Human Identification and entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as #UP5206.
That data found the woman may have come from the Northern Rockies area of the United States, or Canada. Investigators have been unable to reconstruct the woman’s face with the limited data provided.
This year, the Will County Coroner’s Office partnered with Othram with the goal of using advanced forensic DNA testing to identify the woman or a close relative. Anyone with information that could help in aiding the case is asked to reach out to the Will County Coroner’s Office at 815-727-8455 and reference case number UN 97-01, Will County Sheriff’s Office agency number 97-112-104 or NamUs ID #UP5206.
“Will County Coroner’s office has contributed some of the funding to support advanced DNA testing and a DNASolves crowdfund has been created to raise funds for the remaining casework costs. Anyone can contribute here.”