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  • Writer's pictureThe True Crime Edition

Jane Doe Identified After Five Decades

On the 8th of April 1954, the discovery of a young woman’s body shocked the community of Boulder, Colorado. Found eight miles west of the city, along the banks of Boulder Creek, the body was naked and battered. She would be known as “Boulder Jane Doe” for over fifty years.

The woman was devoid of any belongings apart from a few hairpins still holding a few pieces in place. She had no fillings in her teeth, which would have been the usual way to identify someone back in the ‘50s. She did, however, have a scar from surgery on her appendix. In addition, her body was bruised, and it looked like she had been hit by a car. There were also ligature marks.

The police searched the Boulder Canyon area for clothing or any kind of clue but found nothing. News of Boulder Jane Doe swept across the nation, and many parents with missing daughters made the pilgrimage to Colorado in the hope of finally finding their child.

None of the parents were able to identify the young woman, and she was buried under a headstone that read “Jane Doe April 1954, Age About 20 Years”. The citizens of Boulder paid for the Christian funeral.

Jane Doe was exhumed in June 2004, when an artist and DNA made a facial reconstruction was taken. In 2006, the story was included on America’s Most Wanted in the hope of prompting old memories.

Artists bust of Jane Doe via


In 2009, Silvia Pettem had already published Someone’s Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe, her New York Times bestseller about Boulder Jane Doe and her missing identity.

A local historian and writer for Boulder Daily Camera, Silvia wanted to bring Boulder’s most infamous Doe to the forefront of the public’s minds.

Silvia and her team investigated cold cases of other missing women, determined to give the unknown female a name. She was also part of the America’s Most Wanted episode, which gave the case a boost in popularity.


The book outlines that Silvia and her team were sure that Boulder Jane Doe was a woman named Katharine Farrand Dyer, who went missing in Denver in 1954. The 24-year-old disappeared ten days before Jane Doe was found. Katharine had separated from her husband and was renting a room nearby. Her appearance was similar to the Doe’s, and her timeline matched with the discovery of the body.

On the 29th of July 2009, Silvia Pettem received an email entitled “Katharine Farrand Dyer”, which read:

“You may need to be sitting down when you read this. Katharine is in Australia; she is living in my house.”

The author of the email, Joy, told Silvia that she had been caring for a woman named Barbara, who was being moved into a care home. While Joy was packing up the 84-year-old’s belongings, she came across an address book, which belonged to Katharine. Joy did an internet search of the unfamiliar name and found Silvia’s website.

Katharine Farrand Dyer via Daily Mail

Katharine or Barbara’s real name was, in fact, Emily, and she wasn’t missing; she had moved around the country and ended up in Australia to start a new life. Silvia and her team were back at the beginning of this seemingly unsolvable mystery, and Jane Doe was still without an identity.

New Leads

A few months later, Silvia received another email. This one read, “I believe Jane Doe is my great-aunt”.

The author, Michelle, had been researching her family for a school paper and found Silvia Pettem’s website, just like Joy had a few months before.

She went on to tell Silvia about her great-aunt, Dorothy Gay Howard and explained that Dot was from Phoenix, Arizona and had disappeared in 1953. She had perfect teeth with no fillings and an appendectomy scar on her abdomen.

Dot’s sister, Marlene, was still alive. A few days after Silvia and Michelle’s meeting, Marlene visited her local county courthouse to give DNA to test against the sample collected from Jane Doe back in 2004.

The test was conclusive. Boulder Jane Doe had a name; Dorothy Gay Howard.

Dorothy Gay Howard

Dorothy Howard via The Denver Post

Born on the 26th of March 1936, Dorothy was the oldest of three girls by Roy and Eunice Howard. At 15, Dot married David Powell, a 19-year-old who was in the Air Force.

Their marriage lasted six months, which her parents seemed happy about. Dot ran away to Portland, Oregon, after the split from David, and her father drove the 1,300 miles to pick up his daughter and bring her home.

A couple of months after her separation from David, Dot married Kenneth Kirkman. They met while she was working at the Strand Theatre. Dot’s family weren’t aware of the second marriage until they read that Kirkman had filed for divorce from Dot in the newspaper.

Between the end of ‘53 and spring the following year, Dot worked as a nanny and decided to leave once more. This time Dot set her sights on another state, and she travelled northeast to Denver, Colorado, possibly to visit her aunt, Ola Mae, who lived in Capitol Hill.

Unfortunately, Dot never reached her aunt’s house.

It’s believed that she may have been an early victim of Harvey Glatman, the Glamour Girl Slayer, who was living under the care of his mother in Denver at the time Dot was murdered. Glatman had recently been released from prison after a period behind bars for attacking and sexually assaulting multiple women in New York state.

Harvey Glatman via murderpedia

Dorothy Howard was hit by a car and tied up before she died. Glatman owned the same make of car suspected to have hit her, a 1951 Dodge Coronet. He also tended to tie up his victims while he sexually assaulted them. He would then kill them and pose them after death.

A search of Glatman’s home yielded a box of images taken of the women he had killed, but the full album has long since been lost. Dorothy Howard may have been the original victim of the Glamour Girl Slayer.

1951 Dodge Coronet via Mecum Auctions

Boulder Jane Doe, now Dorothy Howard, finally rests in Columbia Cemetery. Her original headstone, given to the unknown woman back in 1954, has been incorporated at her new gravesite. The new headstone was designed by Dorothy’s family.

Headstones via Boulder Daily Camera


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