There are many unsolved crimes in the New Jersey, even after years of painstaking efforts by state investigators. Homicides, disappearances, serial killings and ‘dump jobs’ (a term for unidentified bodies or body parts found tossed like garbage alongside highways and county roads) make up thousands of unsolved crime files in the evidence lockers of police departments across the state. Many of these dump jobs end up as what investigators refer to as ‘cold cases,’ which garner a lot of publicity, but very few leads.
One such case is that of Princess Doe of Blairstown, one of the nation’s most puzzling mysteries and coldest cases. On July 15, 1982, the body of a white female was found by workers at the Cedar Ridge Cemetery on Route 94 in Blairstown, Warren County. The girl’s age was estimated between 14 and 18 years, she was 5-feet 2-inches tall, and weighed about 110 pounds. She had been dead five to ten days. She had been beaten to death with a blunt instrument.
Photo: The clothing worn by Princess Doe at the time of the discovery of her body.
Her face was bashed in beyond recognition, then the body was thrown into a ravine adjacent to the cemetery grounds. Medical examiners said that there were defensive wounds on the girl’s arms and hands, and alcohol was found in her system. The body was found fully clothed, in a V-neck sweater, a red, white and blue wrap-around skirt, and wearing a gold necklace with a rosary-like cross. Her left ear was double-pierced. The victim was first called Princess Doe by the Blairstown police department because of her age and size (Doe is a moniker often given by police to unidentified persons). The department used every available means possible to identify the young girl, even turning to the media in an effort to gather leads. HBO featured the case in a 20-minute segment to an international audience on their show Strange Crimes. Also, a novel, “Death Among Strangers,” used the case as a backdrop. However, whoever Princess Doe really was and where she had come from, remained a mystery.
On June 30, 1983, Princess Doe became the first person entered into the FBI’s national computerized unidentified deceased files. The case is now a textbook course taught at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. There have been many suspects over the years, ranging from local residents to serial killers arrested elsewhere. All of them have been interrogated, but no one has ever been charged with the killing. Six months after the young victim was found, she was buried in a remote corner of the cemetery near where her body was first discovered. The townspeople of Blairstown, moved by the poor victim’s tragic circumstances, donated a coffin, plot and headstone for the stranger. The inscription on the stone says simply: Princess Doe, Missing From Home, Dead Among Strangers, Remembered By All. Born? – Found July 15, 1982.
Photo: The most recent, and what is believed to be the most accurate, 3D composite of Princess Doe created by the Smithsonian Institute using a CT scan of her skull. (Photo: Warren County Prosecutor’s Office)
The Warren County police department pieced together some more facts about the anonymous young girl. They learned that Princess Doe was probably a runaway, who, in the years before her death, may have worked as a hotel housekeeper under several aliases. These tips came from a detective not in New Jersey, but rather Ocean City, Maryland, a beach community with many inexpensive motels for seasonal visitors. Leads sent the New Jersey police south to the city where they have found up to six people alleging to have information about Princess Doe’s true identity. Now after 30 years new evidence has begun to surface in the case leading police to believe that Princess Doe was from Long Island and was murdered by a pimp for refusing to take part in his prostitution ring. Read the witness testimony and about about the new DNA testing being performed in an attempt to finally lay this unsolved case, and Princess Doe, to rest. This article appeared in the Long Island Press earlier this month: Identifying Princess Doe: 30 Years After She Was Slain, New Technology May ID Her and The Killer.
This story is an excerpt from Weird NJ magazine, “Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” which is available on newsstands throughout the state and on the web at www.WeirdNJ.com. All contents ©Weird NJ and may not be reproduced by any means without permission. Weird NJ photos by Mark Moran.
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