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Crime News Cold Cases

Missing Wisconsin Woman Identified Four Decades After Her Body Was Found in Rural Indiana

Connie Lorraine Christensen was last seen in Nashville, Tennessee in April 1982. Her remains were identified more than 40 years later. 

By Elisabeth Ford
An artist rendering of Connie Christensen

Authorities have positively identified a Jane Doe nearly 41 years after hunters found her remains while hiking in rural Indiana.

Connie Lorraine Christensen, 20, of Madison, Wisconsin, has been identified as the remains found north of Jacksonburg, Indiana on December 26, 1982, according to a statement from the DNA Doe Project, which assisted the Wayne County Coroner’s Office in the identification.

Deer hunters hiking along Martindale Creek found the skeletal remains of the woman in the fork of a tree, according to the nonprofit and case information from NamUs (The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System).

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It appeared that at the time of her death that she was wearing high-heeled wooden clogs, a blue button-up blouse, a white bra, blue or gray knit socks, gray slacks and a blue nylon jacket. Also found with her was a gold ring with an opal and two diamonds.

“Officials determined the woman to be Caucasian with brown hair, approximately 18-22 years old, and about 5’3” – 5’7” tall,” the DNA Doe Project stated.

Investigators suspected foul play in the case, though a cause of death couldn’t be determined. It was indicated that she had been dead for up to eight months.

What happened to Connie Lorraine Christensen?

Christensen was last seen in Nashville, Tennessee in April of 1982 and was believed to be three or four months pregnant, chief deputy coroner Lauren Ogden at the Wayne County Coroner’s Office told the Associated Press. Christensen left her 1-year-old daughter with family during her trip to Nashville. When she never returned to Wisconsin as planned, her relatives reported her missing. When her then-unidentified remains were discovered in December of 1982, investigators believed she died of a gunshot wound.

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A breakthrough in the case came when the Wayne County Coroner’s Office partnered with the DNA Doe Project, an organization dedicated to identifying cold case victims.

How was Connie Lorraine Christensen identified?

Christensen’s remains were stored with the University of Indianapolis’ forensic anthropology department while authorities were trying to identify the woman. Genetic genealogy determined that the DNA extracted from the remains matched the DNA of two of Christensen’s relatives who had given a DNA sample to the ancestry website GEDmatch to build a family tree.

“We were fortunate enough to find two relatively close DNA relative matches in GEDmatch that led us to Connie’s family,” said team leader Lori Flowers with the DNA Doe Project. “Taking a DNA test and uploading to GEDmatch is the best way for families of missing persons to help organizations like ours make these identifications.”

Missy Koski, another team leader with the DNA Doe Project, said: “Our hearts go out to Connie’s family, and we were honored to bring them the answers they have sought for so long. I am proud of our dedicated and skilled volunteers who were able to assist law enforcement in returning Connie Christensen’s name after all this time.”

Connie Lorraine Christensen’s family has some answers, but hope for more

At the time of her disappearance, Christensen’s daughter, Misty LaBean, was only a year old. She spoke with NBC’s Madison station WMTV about her life without her mother.

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“I didn’t get to know a lot about her at all when I was young because I think everybody was a little hurt because they thought that she chose to be gone,” LaBean said.

Last year, she received a call from the coroner’s office about a possible identity.

“I immediately started crying, and one of my coworkers was like, ‘It might not be her.’ And I’m like, 'You don’t understand, like, it’s her. I know it is,'” LaBean said.

Since learning what happened to her mom, LaBean visited the site where her mother was found. She told WMTV that she is still looking for some answers in her mom's case.

“I want to know what happened to her,” she said. “I want to know who killed her. I’d love to know a little bit about what she was doing while she was gone and what happened."