On July 20, 1977 the body of a woman was recovered from the Mississippi River between Childs Road and Warner Road, St. Paul, Minnesota. Although it could not be determined how long the deceased had been in the water, investigators estimated she had probably died sometime earlier that year. Forensic investigators determined the woman was White/Caucasian, 16-30 years of age, 5′ 8″tall, and weighed about 130 lbs. She had medium length brown hair and brown or green eyes. The woman was wearing a shirt with green, red, and blue vertical stripes; high waisted blue jeans; brown knee high stockings; and size 8 to 9 shoes. Cause and manner of death were not disclosed.
NamUs ID: UP4804
Date Body Found: July 20, 1977
Race: White / Caucasian
Estimated Age: 16-30
Estimated PMI: Up to 1 year
Location: St. Paul, MN
Agency of Jurisdiction
Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office
Butch Huston, MD
Link to More Information
A young woman pulled from the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1977 has finally been identified by the DNA Doe Project and the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s office as Mary Jensen. Investigators at the time were unable to determine how long she had been in the water, or her cause of death, and the case went cold for more than 45 years.
In March, 2021, Butch Huston of the Ramsey County ME’s office reached out to the DNA Doe Project and submitted DNA extract from Jane Doe to a series of lab processes to create a DNA profile. Later that summer, a team of dedicated and skilled DNA Doe Project volunteer investigative genetic genealogists was assembled and research began using DNA databases at GEDmatch.com and FTDNA.com.
From the beginning, the team faced challenges with the genealogy involved in working limited and distant matches, including immigrant grandparents from Finland and over 35 Italian connections. Talented DDP genealogists combined their skills in foreign language research and document investigation in the United States, Finland and Italy. They finally broke the case by thinking outside the box to put all the clues together. The team’s resourcefulness eventually led to the successful identification of Mary Jensen after 850 hours of cumulative research time.
“This case was challenging due to distant matches and recent immigration from Finland and Italy,” said team leader Gwen Knapp. “We are very grateful for all who uploaded their DNA profiles to GEDMatch.com and my team and I are honored to have been given the opportunity to give Mary her name back”.
The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; HudsonAlpha Discovery for DNA sequencing; Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations for bioinformatics; GEDmatch Pro and FTDNA for providing their databases; 28 generous donors who contributed to this case; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home.
Doe-Nate Fund Goal: $3,450
This was a Doe-Nate Funded case. The goal of $3,450 to pay for required special lab testing and DNA extraction was fully raised from targeted donations. Thank you to our generous donors who contributed to this important project.
Image Credit: Carl Koppelman
Last Updated: August 2, 2022