IRONTON – A Thirty Eight year old mystery cold case identity has been solved through extensive DNA and genealogy.
According to a press release the cold case was reopened in 2009 when a forensic anthropologist Elizabeth Murray PhD, and Professor at Mount St. Joseph University and consultant of National Missing and Unidentifed persons system (NamUs) picked up the case and was interested in attempting new technology methods to identify “Belle in the Well.”In 2011 the body was exhumed and a bone sample for DNA testing was taken, dental X-rays were performed, and a facial reconstruction was completed. No match was made at that time in the NamUs system, so the doctor continued to invest age alternative methods to I.D. the woman.
In February 2017 Murray met another doctor Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, and soon learned of her newly forming DNA project that used DNA and forensic genetic genealogy to link the DNA to families to come up with a list of possible missing people within a new group. This technology using a public genetic database discovered that “belle in the wall” was likely from the Huntington West Virginia area. The identification then came to a standstill because of heavy intermarriage among families in the area making immediate relatives challenging.
In May of 2018 Ohio Bureau of Criminal investigation and identification under Attorney General and now Governor Mike Dewine released another facial reconstruction utilizing new 3d printing replication by forensic sculptor Samantha Molnar.
In February of 2019 DDP was able to provide throughout all the research a tentative ID of Belle, along with names of family members who could be tested for a match. This effort took 14 months, 30+ volunteers, that worked thousands of hours and reviewed 40,000 individuals in family trees.
In March of 2019 a DNA sample was obtained from the youngest daughter of Louise Virginia (Peterson) Flesher and was sent to NamUs DNA testing center for comparison. On July 3, 2019 the UNT lab results confirmed the identity of “Belle in the Well” as Louise Virginia Flesher.
Police are now asking for any information related to this case to be relayed by contacting the Lawrence County Sheriffs office at 740-532-3525.