Police Identify 1979 Jane Doe as Sarah Tatham Abbott After 44 Years

Sarah was identified with the help of new DNA advances

Megan Ashley

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Sarah Tatham Abbott (Source)

On April 20th, 1979, the New Haven Water Company of New Haven, Connecticut, received an unusual and rather morbid call. On the other end of the line was the West Haven Police Department, requesting their presence near Route 34 on Derby Avenue. They were informed that skeletal human remains had been located on the company’s property and that a full investigation would be taking place. Managers of the water company raced to the scene and provided investigators with everything they needed to carry out their investigation.

When law enforcement arrived, they found partial skeletal remains that were somewhat scattered across the land. The remains were taken into the custody of the State’s Medical Examiner, who was tasked with identifying them. Due to the level of decomposition that had taken place, the medical examiner could not determine an exact cause of death, and a post-mortem index is not listed in contemporary reports.

The medical examiner could discern that the remains belonged to a white female, aged between eighteen and thirty, who stood around 5’1” to 5’3”. It was determined the young woman may have had a congenital condition where part of her lower vertebra was missing and may have suffered from arthritis. Signs of periodontal disease (gum disease) and fillings were present. It was also noted the woman had been born without wisdom teeth.

The only items found with the remains were a black lace bra and a ‘Westclox’ brand folding travel alarm clock in a red case. Without a cause of death, investigators found the investigation difficult. Her identifying features did not match any local missing person cases, and no one came forward to claim her remains.

Two years after the initial discovery was made, the woman’s mandible (jaw) was found in an undisclosed location.

Due to the scarce details available, the case quickly went cold, and interest in the case didn’t pick up again until 2022 when Michelle Clark, a Medicolegal Death Investigator, partnered with Othram Laboratories. Othram did what they do best and were able to obtain a DNA profile from the partial skeletal remains. From here…

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