It was October 1973 when two deputy game protectors stumbled across a young woman’s body, buried hastily under tarps, logs and leaves near a U.S. Army post in Pennsylvania, news reports said at the time. She had been stripped of clothes and jewelry, and there was no identification.
For years, the cold case bounced among investigators within the Pennsylvania State Police.
“Investigations are tough when you have a mystery at only one end, but this is a two-front war,” state trooper Nathan Trate told The Washington Post. “Who is she? And who killed her?”
Authorities never found out who Jane Doe was, but, over the years, kept one name close: Betsy Langjahr. Now, four decades later, the news media has helped police learn Langjahr is very much alive.
“She had no clue we thought she was dead,” Trate said, without disclosing any more details.
In 1973, investigators had little to go on, according to local news reports. They knew the body was found decaying in the Fort Indiantown Gap area in Lebanon County. They estimated an age: between 16 and 20. They guessed a height: 5-feet 6-inches to 5-feet 8-inches. They put together a composite to show what she may have looked like.
Then they came up with four possible names, including Langjahr — all runaways from a nearby youth home called Talbot Hall, nestled in Jonestown about 90 miles from Philadelphia, according to pennlive.com.
Three of the four names, but for Langjahr, were cleared by investigators. She became a suspected victim, and the case was set aside — until now. With no marks and broken bones and no signs of trauma on the body, the case fell apart.
Trate said he recently picked up the case, thinking “there were things I could do using modern technology and advancements.” He had a reconstructionist create a bust from old sketches, hoping it might trigger memories for those who may have known her at the time. He reached out last week to the news media to help find out out whether Langjahr was indeed dead. Turns out, she wasn’t.
Trate said he got a call from Langjahr’s son, who put Trate in touch with her.
“She had a rough life throughout the years,” he said. “She wants to keep her life private now.”
Now investigators are back to the beginning: Who was she? And who was her killer?
Investigators are looking for new leads using the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“The case is still open,” Trate said. “I want to stop calling her Jane Doe — that’s my goal.”