DNA technology has helped to determine the identity of a pregnant teen found dead in a Pennsylvania well more than 30 years ago.
The victim’s body was discovered in January 1988 at the bottom of the well, which was located inside the abandoned Publicker Distillery in Bensalem, Bucks County.
Police estimated that she had been aged between 17 and 23 years old at the time of her death, and they also determined that she was about six months pregnant.
Despite initial media interest, the girl did not match the description of any missing persons in the area and the case subsequently went cold.
But on Wednesday, the victim – who has been known only as ‘Bucks County Jane Doe for the past 33 years – was finally able to be identified thanks to advances in genome sequencing technology.
She been named as Lisa Todd, who vanished from Philadelphia in October 1985 at the age of 17.
DNA technology has helped determine the identity of a pregnant teen found dead in a Pennsylvania well more than 30 years ago. She been named as Lisa Todd, who vanished from Philadelphia in October 1985 at the age of 17. Pictured: a sculpture that was created to envision what Todd might have looked like prior to her death
Todd was discovered in January 1988 at the bottom of the well, which was located inside the abandoned Publicker Distillery in Bucks County
Clothing and jewellry discovered on the victim at the time are pictured
The news has stunned Lisa’s surviving brother and sister.
Detective Chris McMullin, who has worked on the case for more than 15 years, told WHYY on Wednesday that he recently cold called Lisa’s family when he learned of her name.
‘Her brother was literally speechless, understandably so,’ McMullin stated.
A photo of Lisa Todd taken before she dropped out of high school. She gave birth to her first child at 15, and was six months pregnant at the time she died – sometime between 1985 and late 1987
Lisa’s sister, Linda Todd, told KYW News Radio that she had a ‘big knot in her stomach’ after receiving a call from the detective.
McMullin says that while the determination of Linda’s identity marks a break in the case, it is far from being solved.
Lisa Todd dropped out of high school as an early teen after falling pregnant at the age of 15. At the time of her disappearance, she had a two-year-old son who is now aged in his mid-30s.
Lisa’s family figured that she had runaway after learning that she was pregnant for a second time.
It’s unclear how long she was alive for between the time of her disappearance in October 1985 and the discover of her body almost two-and-a-half years later in January 1988.
Bensalem is located just 19 miles from where Lisa previously lived.
Cops are calling the death ‘suspicious’, and say it’s unlikely she ended up down the well by accident.
Linda Todd says she hopes the latest break gives detectives a much-needed boost in finally cracking the case.
‘I am just glad they found her, but I just want to know why and who,’ she said of her sister’s death.
Lisa’s sister, Linda Todd, told KYW News Radio that she had a ‘big knot in her stomach’ after receiving a call from the detective
At the time Lisa’s body was discovered, DNA technology was still in its primitive stages.
In 2007, nearly 20 years after the body was found, DNA was extracted from the Lisa’s skeletal remains and uploaded into CODIS, the national DNA database. There was no match.
Late year, more DNA was extracted by Bode Technology – a company contracted by detectives.
They performed genome sequencing and uploaded the results to GEDMatch – a website which compares people’s DNA test results.
Eventually it led the company to a match with some of Lisa’s relatives.
‘What makes this case so incredible is the utilization of the technology we have in 2021,’ one official told WHYY.
‘The case really broke just two months ago. The genealogy now available to us is remarkable.’