Teenage Jane Doe identified 40 years later, hunt for killer continues

Posted at 7:24 AM, August 18, 2023

By: Kelsey Gibbs

ASHLAND CITY, Tenn. (Scripps News Nashville) — After over four decades of being known as “Jane Doe,” the identity of a teenage girl whose skeletal remains were discovered in a landfill in 1981 has finally been revealed.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, in collaboration with scientific experts, successfully identified the once-anonymous individual as Linda Sue Karnes.

Linda Sue Karnes portrait

Linda Sue Karnes (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

Linda Sue Karnes, who would’ve been 58 today, was a resident of Cunningham, Tennessee. Her teenage years were spent at the Montgomery County Girls’ Home in Clarksville.

“For more than 40 years, Linda had no name,” TBI Special Agent Brandon Elkins said. “To be able to give a person their name back, to be able to give them decency, and, you know, maybe a funeral or maybe just the knowledge that we’re able to give to this family is really indescribable, you know, really, there’s no way for me to be able to put into words how great that is.”

Linda’s remains were uncovered in Cheatham County at the old landfill along Highway 249 in Ashland City. At the time, she was believed to be around 15 years old. Law enforcement agencies tirelessly attempted to uncover her identity, seeking any leads that could provide closure to the case.

In a significant turn of events in 2007, the UT Forensic Anthropology Center collaborated with the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification to generate a DNA profile from the recovered remains. This profile was then entered into both the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, in the hope that the young girl would eventually be identified.

The breakthrough came in December 2022 when Linda’s remains were sent to Othram Inc, a private laboratory specializing in forensic genetic genealogical DNA testing, located in Texas. Leveraging the data obtained from this analysis, a TBI intelligence analyst skillfully traced potential family members in Middle Tennessee and Florida.

Contact with these family members confirmed the existence of a relative who had been missing for over four decades.

A DNA sample was obtained from these family members for comparison against the victim’s DNA, utilizing the advancements in Forensic Genetic Genealogy.

“This technology allows us to time travel and to be able to identify these people and give them their names back,” Elkins said.

However, the story doesn’t conclude with the revelation of Linda’s identity.

TBI Special Agent Elkins underscored the presence of clues at the initial crime scene that could provide insight into the circumstances of Linda’s death.

Law enforcement authorities now want to bring her killer to justice.

“Because every victim deserves justice. They all do, whether it happens today, or it happened 40 years ago. You know, if anything, she’s been waiting longer,” Elkins said.

As the investigation proceeds, authorities are reaching out to the public for any information related to this homicide, particularly regarding individuals who may have been associated with Linda before her tragic demise.

Anyone with pertinent details is encouraged to contact the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND or via email at [email protected].

This story was originally published by Scripps News Nashville, an E.W. Scripps Company.