Suspended justice: Who is Napanee’s Jane Doe?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jane2005a.jpg A facial approximation of Napanee Jane Doe, who was located deceased in December 1984. Image via the RCMP

“So sad,” was the general consensus at the time, as people wondered who she was and what had happened to her.

On December 30, 1984, a young woman’s remains were found on the edge of a farm just outside Napanee. The above are the things those in the community at the time still remember – that and the deep sadness of wondering if her family was looking for her.

Four decades have passed since she was found, and no one has claimed her. Her picture hangs in the Lennox and Addington Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police, or at least it a few years ago during a local Girl Guides group field trip. At that time, Constable Jackie Perry told the girls gathered at the police station how much she hoped one day they would find “Napanee Jane Doe’s family.” The girls, wide-eyed, took in the photos, like many have over the decades.

Sadness for her and her unknown family struck anew, another generation sharing to hope of Constable Perry and so many others that “Napanee Jane Doe’s family” will be found.

In 1984, Andrew Dafoe lived in rural Napanee near the village of Newburgh, about four kilometres north of the Palace Road exit of Highway 401. He and his pals were enjoying the crisp December day by riding their dirt bikes on the fields of his family farm. The weather was remarkably fair for the season.

He says his parents were looking after a neighbour’s house. “It was nice out, so they decided to walk to the house, back [along] the side road,” Dafoe explains. As they walked, Dafoe’s parents noticed that a snowplow had clipped the shoulder, pulling back the long grass like a curtain to reveal a pair of jeans. With horror, they realized human skeletal remains were still inside the clothing.

Dafoe remembers a flurry of activity. Police officers descended on the area around his family farm, closing the road to traffic. A line of officers marched slowly back and forth, shoulder to shoulder, sweeping the area around the site.

“I guess it would be a little surreal at that age, right?” he answers when asked how it felt.

“That’s generally not what you expect right where you live.”

Apparently, the body had lain beneath the grass and snow long enough to deteriorate significantly. The young woman had suffered severe head trauma to her left side. Foul play was immediately suspected, according to Bill Dickson, Media Relations Coordinator for the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) East Region.

Investigators eventually estimated that the young woman had died a violent death, most likely between April and November of that year.

Five years passed before an unsettling doll-like reconstruction of her face was circulated on the television news and in the local papers in 1989. It came out that the police had used her real teeth in the reconstruction because of her “unique smile.” 

Dickson explains that, at the time, “there were no missing people in the local area, leading to the obvious conclusion she had been brought to the Newburgh area. We do not know if she was killed before or after she was brought to the area.”

The site where she was eventually found by Dafoe’s family was just off the beaten path and close to Canada’s busiest highway; she could have come from anywhere.

Dickson describes her as “a Caucasian female, between 16 and 25 years of age when she died. She stood between 160 to 170 cm (5’3” to 5’7”) with a slim to medium build and blond hair.” She was wearing a pair of Farini brand blue jeans with a waist size of 74 cm (28.5”) and an inseam of 80cm (31.5”), as well as a black and tan leopard print-patterned long-sleeved blouse. Investigations concluded that these items were sold in limited quantities at various stores across Canada.

The young woman had a very distinctive dental record.

“She had dental work that included silver-amalgam restorations (fillings) on her back teeth and white resin on her crooked front teeth. A forensic dental exam suggests that she had a root canal on an upper incisor tooth on the left side when she was approximately eight years old. It was restored with a metal post and had a noticeable tooth-coloured filling replacing one corner,” Dickson notes.

While not perfect, the results of the dental work history and investigation into the clothing items were hoped to show Jane Doe’s recognizable smile, her outfit, and her approximate size.

Napanee Jane Doe was wearing the jeans and blouse pictured. The original artist used her real teeth in this 1989 rendering of her face. Photos courtesy of RCMP Canada’s Missing website.

As technology progressed, a more advanced facial reconstruction was released in 2005. However, no one has ever connected Napanee Jane Doe to a missing person case.

DNA samples were taken from the body, but no match has ever been found.

“Someone, somewhere knows who this woman is. She must have family members wondering what happened to her,” surmises Dickson. “The Initial investigators have retired since the incident happened, and other officers are assigned to take a fresh look and carry on. Having a reporter look back at one of these cases can definitely help. It could spark a memory for someone.”

In regard to cases that have gone cold, Dickson assures, “we continue to work through potential leads that have come in over the years… The OPP wants to ensure we accomplish two things: we want to help give this woman her name back, providing resolution for her family. We are also committed to ensuring the killer or killers are brought to justice.”

“We continue to follow up any and all tips that come in and have done so since the time Jane Doe’s body was found in December 1984 near Newburgh. Nothing definitive has come from these tips,” Dickson says.

“Social media didn’t exist when this crime happened. Now, one article can spread the word to a much wider audience, potentially reaching someone who can help us put a name to this victim.”

It has been many years since this woman lost her life. Some family or person lost a daughter, sister, granddaughter, or niece.

An artist’s rendering of Napanee Jane Doe created in 2005. Photos courtesy of RCMP Canada’s Missing website.

“The Napanee Jane Doe case remains an active criminal investigation,” Dickson reiterates. “The OPP never closes a case until we can find resolution. As with any case involving unidentified remains, a wide variety of databases — including DNA, fingerprint, and dental — are checked. This includes not just Canada but international sources.”

He also notes, “Every investigator who has been assigned to this case over the years has had the express goal of determining who this woman was and who was responsible for her death. Even now, more than 39 years later, we still believe someone has a key piece of information that could bring about the answers. If someone does have information, we urge them to contact the Lennox & Addington OPP Detachment at 1-888-310-1122.”

The government of the province of Ontario is offering a total reward of $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder of this unidentified victim, according to the OPP. That reward will be apportioned as deemed just by the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services for the province of Ontario, and the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.


‘Suspended Justice’ is an in-depth column written by reporter Michelle Dorey Forestell, which examines cold cases in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region. Launched in January 2024, the column is published monthly in an attempt to keep cold cases on the minds of those living in the area, with the hope that, in doing so, anyone whose memory is jogged might reach out to police with information.

Kingston Police can be reached at 613-549-4660. Those with information who prefer not to reveal their identity can contact the Kingston Police general number (613-549-4660 ext. 0) and request to remain anonymous.
Information on Kingston Police cold cases can be found here.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) can be reached at 1-888-310-1122.
Tips about any crime can be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or online here.

If there is a case that’s gone cold in the KFL&A region that you would like Kingstonist to look into, please contact Editor Tori Stafford via email at tori.stafford@kingstonist.com.

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