A long-standing cold case dating back to 1978, involving the discovery of a body in the Mississippi River near Elsberry, Missouri, has recently been solved. The newly identified victim, previously known as "Lincoln County Jane Doe," was believed to be a woman between 30 and 40 years old based on initial autopsy findings. However, in 2023, the body was exhumed, and advanced analyses by Southeast Missouri State University revealed that the victim was a teenager at the time of her death.

Collaborative efforts between Southeast Missouri State University, Othram (a DNA laboratory), and the Lincoln County Coroner's Office led to the extraction of a comprehensive DNA profile from the remains using forensic-grade genome sequencing. Through genetic genealogy techniques, a familial match was established, ultimately identifying the victim as Helen Renee Groomes, a 15-year-old from Ottumwa, Iowa, who went missing in 1977.

Credit: WQAD News 8 YouTube Channel Location where Helen Groomes went missing.
Credit: WQAD News 8 YouTube Channel
The location where Helen Groomes went missing.

The identification of Helen brought closure to her brother, Kevin Groomes, who expressed relief and joy at finally learning his sister's fate. However, questions remain surrounding the circumstances of Helen's disappearance and death, with the family suspecting foul play, possibly even involving Helen's stepfather.

"I know her stepfather killed her. He was a bad person, beat my sister, beat the kids. On his death bed, he confessed to his daughter that he killed her. Even my sister, she knew, from what I understand from stories. He’d beat her so bad too and the other kids that they were scared to death. Evil walks the planet but no more, not him anyway."

-Roger Castle, Uncle of the deceased

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The resolution of this cold case underscores the importance of perseverance, scientific advancements, and collaborative efforts in solving long-standing mysteries. The dedication of Southeast Missouri State University's anthropology department, Othram's forensic expertise, and the relentless pursuit of truth by law enforcement authorities have brought some form of closure to a grieving family and allowed them to honor the memory of Helen Renee Groomes, formerly known as "Lincoln County Jane Doe."

Credit: WQAD News 8 YouTube Channel Photo of the then 15 year-old Helen Renee Groomes.
Credit: WQAD News 8 YouTube Channel
Photo of the then 15 year-old Helen Renee Groomes.

As investigations into Helen's death continue, there remains hope for further revelations and the pursuit of justice. The successful resolution of this case serves as a testament to uncovering the truth and providing closure to families impacted by such tragedies.

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