SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco murder victim known for 43 years as Jane Doe #40 has been identified by investigators as Judy Gifford, a 14-year-old girl from New Jersey whose aunt kept the same phone number for decades in case her niece tried to call, according to a newspaper report Friday.
The girl's body was discovered partially buried in sand by a man walking his dog near San Francisco’s Lake Merced on Oct. 1, 1976. Police found a gold chain with an owl pendant in the girl’s pocket,
Homicide cold case detectives and missing persons investigators launched a joint investigation in early 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
While combing through unsolved cases, investigators found a report filed in 2017 that said Gifford had disappeared in San Francisco around the same time that Jane Doe #40 was killed in 1976, San Francisco police said.
Gifford’s half-brother, William Shin, reported his sister missing to San Francisco police at an unknown date after he “remembered having a sister when he was a child,” New Jersey State Police said.
“He told investigators that his sister went missing when she was 14 years old, and his family had not seen or heard from her since 1976,” New Jersey State Police said.
In June, detectives collected cheek swabs from Gifford’s paternal aunt, Ogee Gifford.
Officials also collected photographs and dental records. In some of the photographs of Judy Gifford, detectives noticed she was wearing a necklace with an owl pendant, officials said.
The California Department of Justice announced last month that Jane Doe #40 had been positively identified as Gifford, based on testing of family DNA.
On Nov. 22, detectives visited Ogee Gifford’s Southampton, N.J., home to deliver the news that her niece was the cold case victim.
“Ms. Gifford, who has never changed her phone number in case her niece ever called, was brought some closure as a result of the joint effort,” New Jersey State Police said.
The investigation into Gifford’s homicide remains open.