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  • Writer's pictureThe True Crime Edition

Publicker Jane Doe Has Been Identified After 33 Years

Found in an underground pump house, she’s the latest in a long list to get the genealogy treatment.

Publicker Jane Doe bust via NCMEC

The skeletal remains of a woman were discovered by a dog walker on the 24th of January 1988. She was found at the derelict Publicker distillery in Bensalem which had been closed since the ’70s, and the property had since become an area to dump rubbish and unwanted and stolen vehicles.

The pump house Jane Doe was found in was used to distil spirits and was now mostly empty, apart from eight inches of water and oil at the bottom of the well. Getting her body out safely was difficult.

At her autopsy, the coroner put her age at between 16 and 30 years old. She was white, between 5 feet and 5 feet 3 inches with brown hair. She was wearing designer jeans and a purple camisole top, with black leather platform shoes and a bodysuit. She was also around six months pregnant.

Her case was widely publicised, and several reconstructions of her face were created, including one by Frank Bender, who worked on the America’s Unknown Child’s case and John List’s manhunt. Missing persons reports and runaways were cross-checked but none of them matched with Publicker Jane Doe.

Flyers bearing Bender’s facial reconstruction were distributed around Bucks County, Pennsylvania, as were the dental records made at her autopsy. The 50 women missing at the time were all excluded from the investigation, and the case quickly went cold.

In 2007, Jane Doe’s DNA was tested but no results were matched to her. Several years later, a 3D image was created by St Mary’s Hospital in Bensalem using Jane Doe’s skull, and was added to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website. A few years later, the bones of her unborn child were also tested, but no results came from the DNA testing nor the new image.

Two months ago, Jane Doe’s DNA was tested using genealogy techniques at Bode Technology, a privately funded laboratory in Virginia. The extract was then sent to Othram Inc. to further analyse the sample, where they created a profile for Jane Doe.

The profile was then added to the genealogy database and surviving relatives of the missing woman were found. Publicker Jane Doe finally had a name; Lisa Todd.

Lisa was from Philadelphia and was just 17 when she went missing. She also had a two-year-old son, who will now be in his thirties. She went to Frankford High School but dropped out in her freshman year for reasons unknown. She was reported missing in the fall of 1985 by her family, however, the report was removed from the National Crime Information Center when she turned 18, which is why investigators weren’t able to find her in the system.

Frank Bender’s bust and photo of Lisa Todd via NBC10Lisa’s sister and brother are still alive, living in Philadelphia and were understandably “Relieved, surprised, emotional” and “shocked” when they received the call.

While her identity is now known, her death is still unsolved, and police believe it to be suspicious. Investigators also aren’t sure whether Lisa was dead before she went into the well.

“We’re here today to give you a rundown of the case, but more importantly, the family is still alive and have many family members in the city of Philadelphia. We know that there is someone out there that has more information on this particular case and we want that person to come forward.” — Fred Harran, Bensalem’s Director of Public Safety in 6abc.

Harran was a rookie cop when Lisa Todd’s body was found in 1988, “What makes this case so incredible is the utilization of the technology we have in 2021. The case really broke just two months ago. The genealogy now available to us is remarkable.”

Any information surrounding Lisa’s death should be given to Bensalem Police or the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office.


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