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UNIDENTIFIED

Woman’s death ‘should not be without a name’

Posted on November 8, 2021

Local newsTop newsUnidentified
Investigators took this picture of the Snoopy watch found on an unknown woman's wrist when her body was discovered in the woods outside Leland in December 1979.

Contributed photo

Investigators took this picture of the Snoopy watch found on an unknown woman's wrist when her body was discovered in the woods outside Leland in December 1979.

This sketch depicts the likely appearance of an unknown woman whose decomposed body was found in the Brunswick County woods in 1979.

Contributed photo

This sketch depicts the likely appearance of an unknown woman whose decomposed body was found in the Brunswick County woods in 1979.

Investigators took this picture of the Snoopy watch found on an unknown woman's wrist when her body was discovered in the woods outside Leland in December 1979.

Contributed photo

Investigators took this picture of the Snoopy watch found on an unknown woman's wrist when her body was discovered in the woods outside Leland in December 1979.

This sketch depicts the likely appearance of an unknown woman whose decomposed body was found in the Brunswick County woods in 1979.

Contributed photo

This sketch depicts the likely appearance of an unknown woman whose decomposed body was found in the Brunswick County woods in 1979.

This sketch depicts the likely appearance of an unknown woman whose decomposed body was found in the Brunswick County woods in 1979.
Investigators took this picture of the Snoopy watch found on an unknown woman's wrist when her body was discovered in the woods outside Leland in December 1979.

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. News Editor Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Click here to read previous installments in the series, along with case updates and additional resources, on Kay's Unidentified blog.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

LELAND — A 13-year-old boy hunting with his father made a gruesome discovery in the Brunswick County woods four decades ago: the decomposed body of a woman who remains unknown today.

Found on Dec. 8, 1979, in woods near what is now the intersection of Hooper Road and Mount Misery Road near the Hooper Hill neighborhood of Leland just south of Wilmington, the woman wore a gold Snoopy watch with a yellow band on her left wrist.

Medical examiners determined the woman had been dead for weeks prior to the discovery. With her remains badly decomposed, the cause of death went undetermined.

Originally, no age estimation existed. Dr. Ann Ross, a forensic anthropologist at N.C. State University in Raleigh, conducts osteological studies. She found in 2015 that the woman was probably between 42 and 55 years old when she died.

Washed ashore, unearthed in shallow graves, stumbled upon in the woods, discovered in abandoned houses, killed on busy roads and located in rivers, ponds and along railroad tracks, more than 100 bodies remain unidentified in North Carolina. This is one of their stories.

Recent isotope tests indicate the woman wearing the Snoopy watch most likely wasn’t from North Carolina and hadn’t spent a significant amount of time in the state. Potential states of origin include Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York or California.

Mary Doncourt, a now retired investigator who worked for the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, told WWAY-TV in 2015 that the case became a big part of her life’s mission.

“Jane was a real person,” Doncourt said. “She lived. She breathed. She talked. She walked. She laughed. She loved. Her end should not be without a name in the medical examiner’s office for eternity. She should have a name. She should have a tombstone. At the very least, she should have her name. You just shouldn’t die without your name. She deserves that.”

The woman wearing the Snoopy watch is described by authorities as being a Black woman standing 5 feet, 4 inches tall at an unknown weight. The woman had short to medium-length black hair. Her eye color is unknown.

The woman wore a dark, short-sleeved shirt, tan sweater, bra, panties, black slacks or pajama pants and half stockings and red scuffs.

A dental chart is available for comparison. Teeth Nos. 1, 16, 17 and 32 are unerupted and still in the follicular stage of development. Fingerprints are not available. DNA, both mtDNA and nucDNA, is available at the University of North Texas with the reference number 11-1876, all according to information from the Doe Network, a volunteer-run international clearinghouse for unidentified and missing persons.

The woman wearing the Snoopy watch’s case number is 1746 in the National Missing and Unidentified Person System.

Anyone with any information about the woman with the Snoopy watch can call the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Unsolved Case Unit at 910-880-4920.

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