Everybody is given a name at birth — yet there are thousands of people, mostly crime victims, buried in plots marked simply “Jane or John Doe” after their bodies have been found but left unidentified.
Who are they? What stories do they have to tell? And most importantly, will there ever be any clues that lead to them being identified?
We look at ten of the most bizarre cases of unidentified bodies in the US.
10 Beth Doe
Found in Carbon County, PA, on 12/20/1976
On a cold December day, a boy found three suitcases which appeared to have been thrown off the I-80 highway in Pennsylvania.
They contained the body of a dismembered woman, who had been strangled and shot. It was later determined that she was just days from giving birth to a baby girl, whose foetus was still inside her. The mother appeared to have been between the ages of 16 and 22.
Despite composite drawings being released and countless missing person’s cases being examined, she has never been identified.
Her remains were buried but exhumed again in 2007 for DNA samples. Unfortunately, they did not match anything in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NaMus) database and they were returned to their final resting place.
9 ‘Lyle Stevik’
Committed suicide in Amanda Parks, WA on 9/16/2001
In 2001, a lone man who appeared to be in his 20s checked into a cheap motel. He registered under the name of “Lyle Stevik” from Meridian, Idaho, and paid for one night’s stay.
The next morning, a maid tried to clean his room and he told her he would stay a few more days. The next morning she found his body hanging from the coatrack.
He had left an envelope with the money to cover his additional stay and a note that simply said “suicide”.
Despite the fact he was well dressed, in good health, and had gone through extensive work to achieve his perfect teeth, nobody knows who he actually is and no one has ever stepped forward to identify his body.
8 Princess Doe
Found in Blairstown, NJ on 7/15/1982
Discovered in a ravine near a local cemetery, Princess Doe was a teenage girl who had obviously been a victim of a homicide.
It was determined that she died after being beaten in the face with a blunt object. Medical examiners believe she was Caucasian and between the ages of 14 and 18.
Despite a composite drawing being shown to the public, no one ever identified her and her killer was never brought to justice.
After six months, she was buried in a cemetery near where she was found. Countless attempts have been made to identify her throughout the years without success.
7 Little Jane Doe
Found in St. Louis, MO on 2/28/1983
Also referred to as Hope, this African American child was determined to have been between the ages of seven and 12. Her decapitated body was found in an empty apartment building. Sadly, her head was not attached and it has never been found.
Despite significant efforts by the police to determine who she was and who had killed her, these questions have never been answered. She was buried in Washington Park Cemetery.
Her grave was meant to be marked by a tombstone that local children had raised the money for. However, it was put on the wrong grave, a fact not known until 2009 when she was exhumed for further testing.
6 Jason Doe
Killed in accident in Emporia, WA on 6/26/1995
Also known as “The Grateful Dead fan”, this Caucasian man, thought to be between the ages of 15 and 21, was killed in a car accident.
The vehicle was driven by Michael Hager, but no one came forward to say they had ever seen the boy before. It is suspected he was a hitchhiker.
He had no identification on him, but he did have two ticket stubs from The Grateful Dead concert held in Washington, DC on 6/24/95 and 6/25/95, as well as four quarters and a note addressed to “Jason”.
Despite composite drawings being sent out over the entire US, he has never been identified.
5 Jane Doe
Found in Mt. Vernon, NY on 2/14/1988
Discovered on the sidewalk in front of a south-side junk yard in New York, this Caucasian woman, thought to be in her late teens or early 20s, had been strangled and was left naked.
However, it was determined that she had not been sexually assaulted. Over the years, there have been many theories and missing women who were thought to be her, but nothing panned out.
In 2010, DNA underneath her fingernails was found to partially match a man who was in a Massachusetts jail when she was killed, but this hasn’t been pursued any further.
4 Boy in the Box
Found in Philadelphia, PA on 2/25/1957
In 1957, a boy’s body was found stuffed in a box and dumped in northern Philadelphia. Believed to be Caucasian and between the ages of four and six, he was naked and badly beaten.
The police went into overdrive in an attempt to determine who he was and who had committed this heinous crime.
They went as far as dressing the body and posing it in different positions in the hope that seeing him in a “lifelike” position would jog someone’s memory.
Unfortunately, it did not and although tons of leads have been followed up, his identity is still not known.
3 Allenstown Four
Two bodies Found in Allenstown, NH on 11/10/1985 and two bodies on 5/9/2000
Hunters stumbled upon a barrel containing the remains of a Caucasian woman and an eight to 10-year-old girl in 1985.
The case surrounding them was never solved. Fifteen years later, a metal drum was found near the original dumpsite holding a girl between the ages of one and three and a girl between the ages of four and eight.
DNA revealed that the woman was found in 1985 was related to the girls found in 2000.
However, officials also believe the girl found in 1985 is related in some way as well. All were killed between 1977 and 1985. To this day, it is not known who they are.
2 The Unknown Woman
Found in Rahway, NJ on 3/26/1887
Over 125 years ago a woman was found covered in bruises and with her throat slashed. Her body was completely frozen.
The police tried desperately to find out who she was and who had killed her.
Photos were plastered in newspapers throughout the U.S. and Europe, the public was invited to view her body, rewards were offered, and thousands of leads were chased down.
She is buried at Rahway Cemetery and to this day, people are still trying to give “The Unknown Woman” a name.
1 Tonya Dawn Tadlock
Killed in an accident in Oklahoma in 4/1990
The case of Tonya Dawn Tadlock is one of the most convoluted unidentified body cases in history.
After her death in a car accident, it was determined that Tonya had also gone by the names of Sharon Marshall and Suzanne Davis, though these were not her names either.
It is believed that she was kidnapped and raised as the daughter of sociopath Franklin Floyd (AKA Charles Hughes). In 1989, she gave birth to a son, Michael Hughes, though DNA tests later determined Floyd was not the father.
They were married the next year. After she passed away, Floyd was the prime suspect and Michael was placed in foster care.
In 1994, Floyd kidnapped him but although he was captured, Michael has never been found.
Mystery also still surrounds the true identity of Tonya Dawn Tadlock/ Sharon Marshall/ Suzanne Davis – where she came from and who she really was may never be discovered.