‘Valentine Jane Doe’ Rape and Murder Solved 29 Years Later
Monroe County Sheriff
For nearly 30 years, the Florida police have been upset about the unsolved murder of a teenage hitchhiker known only as Valentine Jane Doe - because she was raped and murdered on February 14.
But now the investigators say DNA helped them answer the two key questions of the puzzle: who was the young woman found dead in the Florida Keys in 1991 and who strangled her with her pink bikini top?
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The Monroe County Sheriff's office announced Monday that the victim was identified as Wanda Deann Kirkum, 18, of Hornell, New York. And the man who murdered her is Robert Lynn Bradley from Texas.
But Bradley isn't going to trial, police say, because he was killed himself a year later.
"This case is a testament and a shining example of this agency's involvement in crime solving, no matter how old it is and whatever the challenges," said Sheriff Rick Ramsay.
Windsurfers found Kirkum's bare body in a wooded area off US 1, the freeway that connects Miami to the Keys. She was naked and covered in some water, with stains in the dirt that showed how she had been pulled.
After the police released their description, they received a valuable clue: they were seen trying to couple a trip north on Valentine's Day. The lack of tan streaks on her body indicated that she wasn't from Florida. And her perfect teeth were an indication that someone had taken good care of her.
But the investigators have come this far. Photos of the clothes she was last seen in, descriptions of her tattoos and piercings, and even a forensic model of what she looked like in life did not bring her closer to a name.
The case was featured in Unsolved Mysteries, and the police received hundreds of tips, but none of them cracked the case.
"You wake up in the middle of the night and are [like]: 'Have we looked at this, who is she there, is there something we missed looking at the evidence?'" Lt. Manuel Cuervo of The Monroe Sheriff's Department shared with Crime Watch Daily a few years ago.
As in so many colds, the new DNA analysis gave the police the answers they were looking for. After identifying Jane Doe as Kirkum, they learned that her parents, who had since passed away, had never reported her missing.
They compared DNA from the crime scene to DNA from Bradley's own murder and got a match.
"Countless hours of investigation have gone into trying to solve this crime," Ramsay said in a statement. "Now that the victim and suspect are known, the Sheriff's Office is officially considering solving and closing the" Valentine Jane Doe Homicide "."
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