Police investigators Friday released a picture they hope will lead to developments in a murder that happened more than 20 years ago.
The Galveston Police Department published a computer-generated image of a 25-year-old Asian woman that officials say was constructed using the woman’s DNA. The hope is that someone will see the image and come forward to help solve a murder that occurred on April 1, 1988.
“We feel that it could be reopened if the victim could simply be identified,” detective Derek Gaspard said. “We could work backward and simply go from there.”
The woman, called Jane Doe, has never been identified and her murder has not been solved.
Last month, the police department’s Criminal Investigations Division sent DNA evidence to Parabon Nanolabs, a Virginia company that specializes in phenotyping — the use of biological material to determine physical characteristics.
The company uses the DNA to ascertain a person’s ancestry, eye, hair and skin color, freckling and face shape.
The lab determined the woman, whose head was never found, to be of Asian descent and possibly from China.
This is the first time the Galveston Police Department has used phenotyping technology. Gaspard said the department learned about the technology last month at a police conference. Jane Doe’s blood samples were sent to Virginia last month.
“We’re looking to narrow down the field of missing persons in this case,” Gaspard said. “We don’t even know who the victim is, much less the suspect.”
The snapshot is not an exact likeness of Jane Doe. The technology cannot replicate things such as hairstyles and scars, or physical changes caused by environmental factors such as smoking and diet.
Jane Doe was believed to be between 15 and 25 years old, between 5 feet, 1 inch and 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and weighing between 110 and 150 pounds.
She was wearing a size 36B bra, a dress and size 32 underwear when she was found.
A 16-year-old boy found Jane Doe’s body in a trash bag near a nature trail. She was identified at the time as a white woman in her 30s.
Investigators quickly lost hope they could identify the woman in the months after the gruesome discovery. A head was never found, and the woman’s fingerprints were too decomposed to produce a viable print.
“We’ve really got no hope until we find out who she is,” Police Capt. Ernest Galven told The Daily News in January 1989.
Gaspard said the hope now was that someone would recognize the woman from the composite and call the police so that the investigation could continue.
Phenotyping has the potential to open new leads in many other cold cases, Gaspard said.
“There’s hundreds and hundreds of cases that we could use this technology on,” he said. “We’re in the beginning phases of using it, and it’s still new technology.”
The technology could also be used to identify potential suspects who left DNA at crime scenes.
The police department asked people who have information about a missing Asian female that resembles the description of Jane Doe to contact its tip line at 409-765-3762.
“Any assistance the public can give us on this cold case is greatly appreciated,” Gaspard said.