October 9, 2001 a survey crew found the partially skeletonized remains of a white woman some distance off the shoulder of the northbound lane of Interstate 65 about 12 miles north of the Kentucky-Tennessee state line just north of Nashville, TN. It was determined the woman had died 2-8 weeks prior to discovery. She was 25-35 years old and was 5’6″ tall. She had long (12-14 inches), wavy light reddish-brown to reddish-blond hair. The woman had several missing or severely decayed teeth, the result of poor dental health. She had a healed fracture of the upper right arm, near her shoulder. She also had a healed broken rib. On her left breast was an outline from a rose tattoo. She may have had prior pregnancies and actually may have been pregnant at the time of her death. She had a scar on her face and right wrist. She was wearing a white or tan shirt, blue cotton shorts, and black sandals. On the ground near the body two rings were found–one a gold band, similar to a wide wedding ring.
Subsequent Stable Isotope Analysis (SIA) conducted on the remains revealed the woman spent significant time during adolescence in the Great Lakes or New England region of the US. Further SIA analysis determined that closer to her death she may have spent time in mid-West or mid-Atlantic regions.
Agency of Jurisdiction
Kentucky State Police
Regina Wells, DNA Database Supervisor
Links to More Information
On July 30, 2021, almost twenty years after her remains were discovered just north of Nashville, Tennessee, the Kentucky State Police and the DNA Doe Project confirmed the identity of the woman known as Kentucky Jane Doe 2001 as Dawn Clare (Plonsky) Wilkerson. Ms. Wilkerson’s unidentified body was found on October 9, 2001, some distance off the shoulder of the northbound lane of Interstate 65 about 12 miles north of the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.
In May of 2018, after exhausting all other leads in trying to determine who she was, the Kentucky State Police contacted the DNA Doe Project hoping to resolve the woman’s identity using genetic genealogy. In November of that year, bones were sent to Bode Cellmark for extraction. In February of 2019 the sample was sent to Othram for whole genome sequencing. Due to the poor quality of the DNA, multiple rounds of sequencing were required. In May of 2019, sequencing was complete and the DNA file was sent for bioinformatics. On May 28, 2019, the Doe’s DNA profile was uploaded to GEDmatch. The DNA matches were low, so on June 25, 2019, the agency authorized the file to be uploaded to FamilyTreeDNA. The closest DNA matches were distant cousins, and the team had to trace the family back to Germany in the mid-1800s to find common ancestors. On July 14, 2021, a candidate was presented to the agency.
Team Leader Missy Koski stated, “We thank the Kentucky State Police for entrusting us with this case. We are honored to have played a part in giving Kentucky Jane Doe 2001 her name back.”
The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of other groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Kentucky State Police and DNA Database Supervisor Regina Wells, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; Bode Cellmark Labs for extraction; Othram for sequencing; Dr. Gregory Magoon, contracting through Full Genomes Corporation, for bioinformatics; GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA for providing their databases; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home.
For more information about the search for the identity of Kentucky Jane Doe 2001:
Last Updated: August 1, 2021