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Orange County Jane Doe Given New Face by Amateur Forensic Artist

Investigators hope rendering sheds light on story of I-40 remains
Calls for public to come forth with knowledge of New Hope Jane Doe's identity


by: Tristan Dufresne,

HILLSBOROUGH — Nearly three decades ago, on September 19, 1990, the deceased body of a woman was discovered by a crew of road workers along Interstate 40 in Orange County. She was between 15 and 25 years old (probably on the younger end, according to a statement from the Orange County Sheriff's Office), around 120 pounds, with blonde or possibly frosted blonde hair.

Unidentified to this day, she is known only as New Hope Jane Doe, since her remains were found by the New Hope Road exit. But investigators with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office have never given up hope on discovering who she is and the reason for her death. This past week, the sheriff's office reached out to the public for help again — this time with help from an amateur forensic artist named Carl Koppelman.

This is the reconstruction of New Hope Jane Doe by Carl Koppelman.

New Hope Jane Doe was found in a pink sweatshirt with pictures of rabbits, plus white socks and a bra. It is believed she died from strangulation. Law enforcement has received no reliable leads based on this information.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has not responded to requests for comment for this story. They shared the reconstructed photo of New Hope Jane Doe on their Facebook page on September 19, the 29th anniversary of her body being found. Koppelman’s work is the first to display her teeth.

In the Facebook posting of the reconstructed photo, Sheriff Charles Blackwood said, “We want as many people as possible to see this new picture. Social media wasn’t a resource in 1990. Now, it allows us to get her likeness in front of more people than we ever dreamed possible back then.”

This is a prior image of New Hope Jane Doe, done by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“We want to learn who this young woman was and bring her family peace,” Sheriff Blackwood wrote. He called the forensic artist “talented” and asked people to follow the Who Is NewHope Jane Doe? Facebook page.

The administrator of Who Is NewHope Jane Doe?, Daphne Owings, was the one who connected the artist to this investigation.

“I approached Carl about doing the reconstruction back in March of 2018,” Owings told the Sundial. “From there I facilitated with the state ME’s [Medical Examiner’s] office and [Orange County] sheriff.”

Carl Koppelman, who made his career as a certified public accountant in California, where he still lives, took an interest in the growing online community of “websleuths.” Those involved range from gumshoe hobbyists to true-crime cosplayers (costumed character role players). Koppelman, an artist since adolescence, thought he might be able to assist in some of the most pernicious cold case mysteries: unidentified John and Jane Doe bodies. Over the past decade, Koppelman has helped in eight cases across the country.

According to the National Institute of Justice Journal there are more than 100,000 active missing persons cases at any given time, and there are currently 40,000 unidentified remains yet to be named and properly eulogized by loved ones. The Journal refers to the issue as the “Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster.”

Of the many hurdles to solving the puzzle of an unclaimed body, one difficulty can be the sometimes transient and disconnected lifestyles of the victims; another is the condition of postmortem facial features.

Koppelman’s work has assisted in another mystery that swirled around the internet for years: the identity a young man who committed suicide in a hotel in Amanda Park, Washington, checked in under the fake name Lyle Stevik. Despite the quick discovery of the body, no matches were yielded from any federal database. Message boards like Reddit kept public speculation active for 16 years.

Only months after Koppelman released his portrait, the DNA Doe Project found members of the dead man’s family, who confirmed his identity when shown Koppelman’s portrait. “Stevik’s” identify was never released to media.

Koppelman explained his method. “First you have to take the skull and make a composite [of the Doe’s face] using various photos. And once you have the composite, you can do overlays.”

He uses the Doe’s face for bone structure, making the features prominent, then overlays it with a photo (or more than one) of a living person’s face that is similarly formed and has the right complexion. Hair can come from other photos as well. Then he’ll use his computer art skills to “open” the eyes and give a sense of life back to the mouth. He’ll finally add clothes and a background. The result is much more comparable to a live person than the picture of a dead body, which may have been exposed to the elements, damaged or changed from time or embalming.

Koppelman told the Sundial that his work on the New Hope case began with “a clean picture of the skull...and [one] of the face as how they found it, though it was which was pretty badly decomposed.

“So there were challenges with trying to interpret those features,” he said. “Fortunately, there was some hair samples...enough to give us an accurate color and tell it was shoulder-length.”

“I don’t know why,” Koppelman said, “but the media finds Doe cases less interesting than homicides and missing persons,” meaning the cases with identified victims or persons. Why? He speculates that homicides with known victims or missing persons who have been identified present clear narratives, which can hold public attention better than the puzzles of finding Does’ identities.

Whether his work will lead to closure for whoever may be wondering about their missing daughter, friend, partner, sister or niece, now known as New Hope Jane Doe, remains to be seen.

If you have information about the New Hope Jane Doe, contact Captain Joshua Wood of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office by calling (919) 245-2927 or using the anonymous tip feature on the office’s website.

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