The Unsolved Murder Of Oak Grove Jane Doe

The discovery of a Jane Doe is always a sad occasion. Not only has a tragic death occurred, but authorities are unable to identify the dead body, so they canot provide closure for the family and friends who might be hoping for answers to what happened to their missing loved one. And when a Jane Doe has suffered a particularly brutal death, and remains unidentified for years, the case seems even more tragic, as was unfortunately the case with the Oak Grove Jane Doe.

The Oak Grove Jane Doe, so named because pieces of her body were found one by one in the area of Oak Grove, Oregon, was discovered in the spring of 1946, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Despite the murder attracting a fair amount of public attention at the time, limited clues and the lack of DNA evidence or modern forensic technology made it impossible to positively identify the body. The Oak Grove Jane Doe's identity remains unknown to this day. "It was, without a doubt, one of the most brutal, gory things that happened in that time," John Krummenacker, a cold case detective who investigated the case, told KOIN 6.

Parts of Oak Grove Jane's Doe's body were discovered in the Willamette River

The first discovery was made on the evening of April 12, 1946, by a couple named James and Mary Rader, who were hiking along a trail on the East bank of the Willamette River with their friend, H.C. Foster. The group spotted a suspicious-smelling burlap sack floating on the edge of the water, bound shut with a combination of rope, tape, and telephone wire. At first believing the remains could be those of unwanted kittens, the hikers opened the bag only to instead discover the torso of an adult woman, according to Out of the Past. The torso, which was "wrapped in brown slacks, a dark blue sweater, long union suit underwear and a grayish-black tweed topcoat," showed signs of having been tortured with a blowtorch.

This discovery then prompted a group of tugboat operators to take another look at an at-first-glance unassuming burlap package they had seen floating in the river just five miles away from where the torso was found. The package was similarly tied with telephone wire, and weighed down with sash weights. When they pulled the package aboard, they saw this was no ordinary burlap package. Inside, the tugboat operators found a woman's right thigh and two arms, both of which had the hands cut off, via The Nebraska State Journal.

Oak Grove Jane Doe is believed to be a middle-aged Caucasian woman

That was not the last of the remains that would float up to the surface. Over the next few months, more of Jane Doe's body parts were discovered. In July, her left leg was discovered, along with a bundle of clothing. Just a few months later, in September, part of the missing woman's scalp was found, and finally, her head was discovered in October (without the eyes) according to Out of the Past.

From the remains, Dr. Warren C. Hunter, a medical examiner and pathologist at the University of Oregon, was able to determine that the Jane Doe was a petite Caucasian woman between the ages of 40 and 50, with brown and gray hair, who had likely died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, according to The Nebraska State Journal. However, there was nothing concrete that could be used to determine who this woman was. Even more tragically, almost all of the evidence, including the clothing, the weights that had held the body down, and the remains themselves, went missing sometime over the past 70 years, making it near impossible for current-day cold case investigators to solve the Oak Grove Jane Doe mystery, according to KOIN 6.

The Oak Grove Jane Doe mystery remains unsolved

At first, authorities pursued a number of leads, including tracing a set of size 10 men's footprints that had been found near the river, as well as analyzing the water's speed and current to try to determine where the initial drop-off point had been, and how long the body had been submerged. An initially promising phone call, made by a vagrant named Orville A. Switzer claiming to have information about the murder, tunred out the be a prank, via Out of the Past. Investigators also fielded a high volume of letters from family members all over the country who were missing relatives, and wrote hoping to find out if their loved one may have been the deceased woman, per KOIN 6. Unfortunately, none of them yielded any real clues.

Over the years, many theories have been put forth as to who the Oak Grove Jane Doe really was. One of the most popular recent theories, proposed by Oregon-based authors JD Chandler and Joshua Fisher, suggests she was a woman named Anna Schrader, who had been engaged in a scandalous affair with a police officer and went missing right before the torso's discovery, per KOIN 6. However, without hard evidence, the true identity of the Oak Grove Jane Doe may never be known.