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Missouri ‘Jane Doe’ identified exactly 40 years after body was found


The body of a woman found in Missouri in 1981 has been identified via DNA match exactly 40 years later, sheriff officials said.

Karen Kay Knippers, whose body was discovered at a low river crossing near Dixon on May 25, 1981, was later buried as a “Jane Doe” at Waynesville Cemetery after authorities were unable to identify the apparent homicide victim, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.

The unidentified remains were exhumed in 2015 in hopes of getting DNA evidence after a detective became interested in the case and requested approval to take another look, sheriff officials said.

A month later, the remains were shipped to the University of North Texas for DNA and forensic analysis. The remains were then transported to the University of South Florida for further testing in May 2016, sheriff officials said.


The “Jane Doe” remains were submitted in April 2019 to the DNA Doe Project, which works to identify relatives via DNA.

“The woman, estimated to be between age 25-40, had suffered trauma to her face and had been strangled with pantyhose,” according to a case summary by the California nonprofit group. “Her death is considered homicide.”

Karen Kay Knippers' unidentified body was buried at Waynesville Cemetery.
Karen Kay Knippers’ unidentified body was buried at Waynesville Cemetery.
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The organization provided investigators with a possible relative of the woman in December 2019, ultimately leading them to Knippers’ brother in Alexandria, Virginia, sheriff’s officials said.

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“The candidate informed [investigators] that he did have a sister that the family had lost contact with in the early 1980s,” the Pulaksi County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The DNA analysis of the two samples found that the man and Knippers were 19.4 million times more likely to be biological siblings than being unrelated, sheriff’s officials said.

“Bottom line: We now know the name of Pulaski County (Dixon) Jane Doe is Karen Kay Knippers,” sheriff’s officials said Tuesday on the 40th anniversary of the dead woman’s discovery.

An investigation to find the person responsible for Knippers’ slaying is ongoing, sheriff’s officials said. Anyone with information is urged to call Pulaski County Sheriff’s Detective D.J. Renno at (573) 855-1069.

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