Identified in 2021: The case of Beth Doe
Updated: Oct 28, 2021
Over the past few months, I’ve covered two Jane Does on my YouTube channel who have been identified since the videos went up — one being Delta Dawn, the other Valentine Sally. Thanks to DNA technology, more and more Does are being identified all the time, and now we can add another name to that list. Let’s talk about the girl only known as Beth Doe before she was finally identified in 2021.
White Haven, Pennsylvania resident Kenneth Jumper was just 14 on December 20, 1976. As he walked along the bank of the Lehigh River near the border of Carbon and Luzerne Counties, he found something he almost certainly didn’t expect or want to see: A human head.
When police arrived on the scene, they found even more. Three suitcases had apparently been thrown from the nearby bridge, seemingly by someone who was aiming for the river but missed. Two of the suitcases broke open when they hit the ground and the rest of the remains were on the bank, visible to anyone walking by. Another suitcase was found in the nearby woods.
A subsequent investigation showed the remains belonged to a white female, between the ages of 15 and 25. She was estimated to be between 4 foot 11 and 5 foot 4, 140 to 150 pounds with brown hair and eyes. The woman (or possibly girl) also had a lot of tooth decay and dental problems that would have put her in a lot of pain. She had a scar on her left leg and a mole on her left cheek. There was also writing on her left hand; it wasn’t clear just what it said, but it was probably ‘WSR4,’ ‘WSR5’ or ‘WSR7.’
The girl or woman, nicknamed Beth Doe, had been strangled, shot in the neck and dismembered with precision. Her nose, ears and breasts had been cut off; they’ve never been found. Then her body parts had been placed into the three suitcases, which were spray painted black and had the zippers removed. Various body parts were wrapped in bedspread, others in newspapers dated from September of that year. She was thought to have been dead less than 24 hours, possibly because of the ink on her hand, which would have lasted 8 to 12 hours.
But perhaps the saddest part of all was that Beth Doe was pregnant. In fact, she was full term, maybe even just days away from giving birth to a baby girl.
The body of Beth Doe and her unborn daughter were kept in evidence for awhile. In 1983, they were buried in a pauper’s grave in White Haven.
Despite being at least somewhat mutilated, Beth Doe’s face was still largely recognizable. There have been several facial reconstructions over the years; the latest one I could find was released in 2015 by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Along with the reconstructions came plenty of speculation. People wondered how a young woman about to give birth could disappear just before Christmas and not be reported missing. Theories ranged from her being a runaway or illegal immigrant to her baby’s father being responsible for her murder. At least one Websleuths user speculated she was in a relationship but was unfaithful. Then her boyfriend or husband figured out the baby wasn’t his and killed her in anger. Other users wondered if her pregnancy was a result of abuse by a family member and she was killed to cover that up. Some wondered what the writing on her hand could mean. Theories included: Directions, a message to let someone know she was in danger, or maybe just notes she took on her hand as reminders of something. (For example, in my senior year of high school, I used to write homework assignments on my hand because I didn’t want to forget them but was too lazy to buy a planner.)
In 2007, Beth Doe’s body was exhumed for DNA testing. Investigators planned to run her DNA through databases, but at this point didn’t expect to find a match. This was a time before websites like 23 and Me were popular.
However, these 2007 tests did rule out a few missing persons as Beth Doe. Later isotope testing also determined she might have been born in Europe, maybe Serbia or Croatia. She would have come to the United States five to ten years before her death, possibly living in the southeastern part of the country.
In 2015, a new reconstruction was released of the suitcases Beth Doe’s body had been placed in. This reconstruction showed what they would have looked like before being spray painted and having the zippers removed.
Over the years, multiple women have been suggested as a potential match to Beth Doe, many on a lengthy Websleuths thread about the case. Nancy Monahan is a Pennsylvania resident who was inspired by the case to create pennsylvaniamissing.com, which no longer appears to be active, at least as a missing persons site. At one point, Monahan thought Beth Doe might be Janet Hanna, who disappeared in July 1976. Janet was later found alive.
In 2019, a woman called police and said Beth Doe might be a former classmate of hers. Maggie Cruz ran away from her Massachusetts foster home in 1974 when she was 16. She reportedly called a friend two years later and said she was pregnant, but wasn’t seen after that. Maggie Cruz was also found alive.
cracking the case
In early 2020, part of Beth Doe’s femur bone was used to create a new DNA profile. That’s where they finally found a relative.
Luis Colon Jr. knew he had an aunt who hadn’t been heard from since the 1970’s. Around 2016, he started submitting his DNA to various databases like 23 and Me, hoping to find his long lost aunt and maybe any cousins he’d never met. Instead, in March 2020, he got a notification that his DNA had been matched to a homicide victim.
Police got in contact with Colon Jr., who told them about his aunt. They then talked to his dad, Luis Colon Sr., who told them about his sister, Evelyn Colon. He described Evelyn’s mole on her face and scar on her leg — which at least partially matched Beth Doe’s description.
He also told them about Luis Sierra, who Evelyn had been dating when she was last heard from.
When police interviewed Sierra, he initially denied even knowing Evelyn. He eventually confessed that she was his live-in girlfriend and the mother of his coming child. As he claimed, she had been threatening to leave him for awhile and, when he came home one day and she was gone, he figured that’s what she had done. He then said he went to her mom’s house to see if she was there and doing okay, but nobody answered.
But investigators didn’t buy it. On March 31, 2021, nearly 45 years after Beth Doe’s body had been found, Pennsylvania State Police announced that she had officially been identified as Evelyn Colon.
Evelyn Colon was born on April 17, 1961. Her family was from Puerto Rico, but in 1976, she lived with her family in Jersey City, New Jersey. The family lived next door to Luis Sierra at one point, which might be how they met. Once Evelyn found out she was pregnant at 15, she moved in with 19-year-old Sierra in preparation to start their family.
According to Migdalia Colon, Evelyn’s sister, Sierra was jealous and controlling, sometimes even locking Evelyn in their apartment. Evelyn reportedly told her mom that if anything ever happened to her, Sierra was responsible.
In mid-December of 1976, Evelyn’s mom, brother and/or sister (different sources said different things) went to visit and found her gone. Less than a month later, her family got a letter with no return address but postmarked from Connecticut. The letter was seemingly from Evelyn, saying she’d moved to Connecticut with Sierra and their new baby boy, Luis Sierra Jr. She also said she’d contact them if she needed anything else. Thinking she’d cut them off voluntarily, her family never reported her missing. Luis Sierra later admitted to writing and sending the letter.
An article posted on April 3, 2021 said Evelyn’s family had no photos of her because they were all destroyed in a fire the year before she died. However, a few photos surfaced in another article posted on April 14, 2021; I assume they were obtained from sources outside the old family home, maybe from extended family members or friends. Before any photos of Evelyn were made public, a few relatives said Evelyn didn’t really look like the composite sketches, though her aunt Miriam Colon-Veltman thought she resembled other family members.
Colon-Veltman also organized a GoFundMe for the family. The money will go to Evelyn’s family members so they can travel to pay their last respects, the cost of reburying Evelyn with her family, a new memorial, and “anything else the Colon family will need to honor Evelyn and her baby,” according to the page’s description. Colon-Veltman also wrote that they have named Evelyn’s unborn daughter Emily Grace. You can contribute to the GoFundMe here.
The same day that Evelyn’s ID was announced, it was also reported that Luis Sierra had been arrested and charged with criminal homicide. Sierra was 63 by this time, lived in Ozone Park, New York and had a wife and two children. A few weeks after his arrest, he was extradited to Pennsylvania. At the end of April 2021, a judge ruled there’s enough evidence in the case to send the case to court.
Sierra was charged charged in accordance with laws of 1976, and so far there have been no charges in the death of Evelyn’s unborn child, posthumously named Emily Grace. Sierra might face further charges later.
Despite a suspect being in custody, a tip line has been introduced by the Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers, who are asking anyone else with more information to come forward. You can reach this tip line at 800-4PA-TIPS (800-472-8477). Be sure to reference media release No. 1956. I will continue to follow this case and let you guys know of any major updates.
That's the latest update as of I’d never heard of this case until she was identified, but it was apparently pretty well known. I’m glad to see a case so many people cared about well on its way to finally being solved.