Imagine a young woman, possibly a teenager, brutally murdered along with her unborn child and no one comes forward to identify her. Not her parents, or siblings, or grandparents, no one. Investigators know little about her, but they've been her voice for the last 43 years.
"Beth Doe" and her daughter are buried in a potter's field in Weatherly, Pennsylvania. Every now and then strangers leave flowers for them.
"Beth Doe" was found along the banks of the Lehigh River in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, on December 20, 1976. She was dismembered and stuffed into three suitcases. Her nose, ears and breasts had been removed. Inside one of the suitcases was the full-term female fetus.
What kind of monster could do this to another human being? Whoever that person is, he or she, has managed to escape justice for more than four decades. Investigators don't believe it was the work of a stranger. This was a personal, sadistic attack.
Behind the scenes
We started researching this case at the beginning of 2019, and it's been quite the journey to bring it all together. We first reached out to Pennsylvania State Police and right away they said 'yes' to our interview request. We met Trooper Brian Noll, the lead investigator on the "Beth Doe" case, at the end of April. It's obvious how much he and the previous investigators want to solve this case. They've been chipping away at it for 43 years, applying traditional investigative techniques and advanced forensic technology, but it hasn't brought them closer to identifying the victim. Without her name, finding Beth Doe's killer, if that person is still alive, is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Still, investigators have never stopped working on this case. They continue to look for ways to keep "Beth Doe" in the public eye. According to Trooper Noll, "Beth Doe" is the one case that still generates the most tips, even after all these years. Perhaps it's the nature of the crime and because there was a baby involved. What was done to them, that type of evil, is on a whole different level.
Below are some photos we took and others we obtained during the course of working on this story. They are of the actual suitcases and the blanket recovered at the scene. Trooper Noll pointed out the blanket and it's unique embroidered design. Notice the small patch of blue yarn in one of the pictures. It's almost as if the design started unraveling at one point and was stitched back together. It's a very specific blanket and someone should be able to recognize it. Same with the suitcases. If you follow this case, you've probably seen the picture of the three suitcases since it's readily available online. We wanted to see more, and Trooper Noll delivered. He shared additional pictures of the suitcases in hopes that someone recognizes them.
White Haven, PA
For this story we started by contacting people in the small town of White Haven near where "Beth Doe" was found. We sent out dozens of emails, messages via social media, and made countless phone calls. It took months, but the more we went to White Haven, the more the community started to open up. Eventually we met Dolly Maughan and her son Brent. They've lived in White Haven their entire lives and still remember the case. Brent was good friends with Kenneth Jumper, the boy who found the suitcases, and was supposed to be with him that day. We reached out to the Jumper family but we did not hear back from them. One can only imagine how traumatic the experience must have been for Mr. Jumper. He was only 14 at the time.
The funeral director
We also met Philip Jeffries, a retired deputy coroner and funeral director in Weatherly, Pennsylvania. The Vietnam veteran assisted Pennsylvania State Police in the disinterment process for "Beth Doe" in 2007. Mr. Jeffries has seen his share of trauma, but the young mother's murder stayed with him all these years.
Jeffries transported the mother and daughter's remains to a laboratory for a second autopsy on October 30, 2007. He then prepared their bodies for burial. He shared photos from his archives and details of the service for "Beth Doe" which you'll see in our report.
Following the second autopsy, tissue samples from both mom and baby were sent to a lab in Texas for identification but to no avail. In 2014, chemical isotope testing was done on Beth Doe's remains which determined that she may have been from Central or Western Europe but lived in the United States for five to ten years, possibly in Tennessee, before she was murdered. It's important to mention that isotope testing is not an exact science, therefore, investigators don't really know where she was from.
A voice for the unidentified
This case is not uncommon. According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NAMUS, "Beth Doe" is one of more than 12,000 unidentified bodies in morgues or buried in public cemeteries across the United States.
According to Todd Matthews, communications director for NAMUS, the sheer volume of cases of missing and unidentified people has become the nation's silent mass disaster. Many cases like Beth Doe's are decades old, and they've been adding up over time.
Matthews walked us through the importance of the NAMUS federal database and why he believes all law enforcement agencies and families of the missing need to use it. Matthews, who was instrumental in solving a 30 year old cold-case of a murder victim known as "Tent Girl" in Kentucky says Beth Doe's case can still be solved, but as he put it, "She's missing from somewhere, and you gotta get people to come forward." And that's exactly what happened as we were working on this story.
Could Beth Doe's name be Maggie Cruz?
As we looked for information that wasn't already out there about this case, I stumbled upon several posts on different social media sites from a woman in Mesa, Arizona, who contacted Pennsylvania State Police because she believes "Beth Doe" could be her foster sister. Jane Foust says the sketch of "Beth Doe" jumped out at her the second she saw it. Immediately she thought about her foster sister Maggie, full name Madelyn Cruz, whom she met in 1972 at a boarding school called Rockwood Academy in Lenox, Massachusetts. They became friends and, not long after, Jane's parents took Maggie in as a foster child.
Jane says the arrangement didn't last long. The two were rebellious teenagers who got in trouble often and at one point ran away to Tarrytown, New York, in the summer of 1973. After a few days and with nowhere to stay, Jane decided to return home, but says Maggie refused to go with her. That's the last time she saw her. It wasn't until June 1976 that Jane says she received a call from Maggie saying she was pregnant, scared and needed money. Jane didn't tell her parents and didn't have money to send to Maggie. That was the last time they spoke. Jane wishes she had done more when Maggie reached out to her.
Kandra Gilbert of Reading, Pennsylvania, also saw Jane's posts and reached out to her. Kandra has been following Beth Doe's case for ten years. She started doing research on Maggie Cruz, and her persistence payed off. It was Kandra who first managed to obtain a picture of Maggie from a former student at Rockwood Academy. Kandra sent the photo to the Pennsylvania State Police.
Below are pictures of Madelyn "Maggie" Cruz. One is from the Rockwood Academy yearbook, which the owner was kind enough to send to me for this story. Jane Foust shared the other photo with us. What do you think? Does Maggie Cruz resemble Beth Doe?
Pennsylvania State Police confirm they are pursuing this lead but have not been able to locate the right Maggie Cruz, yet. Trooper Noll hopes that someone recognizes the girl in the pictures and contacts PSP right away. According to Jane Foust, Maggie Cruz was a ward of the state of New Jersey and also briefly attended Framingham High School in Massachusetts. According to Jane, Maggie is Puerto Rican and is possibly from New York. She recalls Maggie having three other siblings who were also in foster care at the time.
Could this be the needle in the haystack that investigators have long been searching for? Could this bring closure to this 43-year-old mystery and to the small community near where "Beth Doe" was found? If not, this raises yet another question: What happened to Maggie Cruz?
If you have information about Beth Doe or if you know Maggie/Madelyn Cruz, please contact Trooper Brian Noll at 570-220-8475.
Si usted tiene informacion sobre este caso o si reconoce a Madelyn "Maggie" Cruz por favor llame a la Policia Estatal de Pensilvania al 570-220-8475 o al National center for Missing and Exploited Children al 1-800-The-Lost. Si prefiere dejar un mensaje privado lo puede hacer aquí en nuestra pagina.
Beth Doe physical description: Estimated age: 15-25 years old Race: White Gender: Female Height: 4'11" to 5'4" Weight: 140-150 lbs. Hair Color: Brown Eye Color: Brown Distinguishing Marks/Features: She had a 5.5" scar on her left leg, just above the heel and a 2-inch scar on her left calf. She had a small circular mole above her left eye and a mole on her left cheek. She was carrying a full-term white female fetus. The moles on her face could've developed during her pregnancy. Blood type O Dentals: Available. At the time of her death Beth Doe was suffering from tooth decay and a fracture to her upper right lateral incisors that would have caused her serious pain and been noticeable to others. DNA: Available Fingerprints: Available
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