The remains of a young woman found in August of 1971 in a dump site near Cave Junction, Ore., have been positively identified as those of Anne Marie Lehman, who went missing or ran away from Aberdeen in late 1970 or early 1971.
She was 16 or 17 when she left home and would be in her mid-60s now.
Oregon officials became aware of Lehman when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children made the potential link by comparing a database of missing young people with a database of unidentified bodies. Annie Lehman left home within a year or so of the discovery of the body and her physical characteristics and age were a match.
The cause and manner of death have never been determined, but Oregon officials are working on the basis of it being foul play.
The new development in the case became news last month when Josephine County (Ore.) Sheriff Cold Case Detective Ken Selig came to Aberdeen to publicize the possible match with the hope that it would create new leads.
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel made the announcement Thursday.
Identifying the remains is “A huge step that puts us a long way ahead of where we were,” said Selig. “I have chased so many leads that have gone nowhere over the years,” but the identification allows for a more focused investigation.
Police have taken to referring to the matter as the Jane ‘Annie’ Doe case, Selig said.
Now cold case investigators are looking for anyone who had knowledge of the circumstances surrounding her leaving Aberdeen in the first place.
“The two main questions remaining are what was she doing that brought her here, and the cause and manner of death,” said Selig.
When her body was discovered in August 1971, investigators were unable to determine the cause and manner of death because the remains were mostly skeletal, with just some hair and scalp remaining.
“But we can still try to piece together when she left, who she left with, the last people that saw her, the people who came in contact with her, how did she get here, where did she get her clothes, those kind of things,” said Selig.
Selig is hoping news of the positive identification will spur anyone who may know anything about the aspects of Lehman’s disappearance from Aberdeen to call the Sheriff’s Office.
“The last article produced a lot of action,” said Selig. “I’m hoping this will do the same thing.”
The news of the positive identification prompted a few comments on local social media by people who recalled her. Mickey Thurman, now of Hoquiam, said she believed she remembered Lehman from Miller Jr. High School and part of her time at Aberdeen High School, but couldn’t be certain. She said others in her high school class remarked the photo that accompanied the story sparked distant memories of the teenager.
Lehman’s parents passed away several years ago, along with a brother. The only other sibling, an older sister, still lives in the state. It was her DNA that provided the match.
Selig said Annie Lehman had a tough childhood. Her sister told him Annie left home one day in late 1970 or early 1971, when she would have been 16 or 17, with a woman the family didn’t know and they later believed she was sold into prostitution.
Cold case investigators in Oregon are especially intrigued because a ring found with the body was inscribed with the letters AL.
Any information could prove helpful to the investigation, Selig said, with some major focal points that could break things wide open.
“At this point we’re looking for somebody who knew about her leaving, knew of the circumstances under which she left, and who she left with,” said Selig.
Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to call Selig at 541-474-5123 and reference case 71-940.
The Thursday statement from the Sheriff’s Office thanked Dr. Margaret Press, Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick “and the many volunteers of the DNA Doe Project whose hard work on Jane Annie Doe’s genetic genealogy led to her identification. Without the DNA Doe Project orchestrating the effort to bring Annie Marie Lehman home, it may well have taken another 47 years before Annie would be identified and reunited with her family.”
Daniel also thanked many others who contributed to the investigation, including the Oregon State Police and Medical Examiner’s Office, the University of North Texas and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.