Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Teams with Othram to Identify 1985 Homicide Victim

After 38 years, Washtenaw County Jane Doe, a homicide victim whose remains were discovered in a shallow grave in the Superior Township of Michigan, is now known to be Cheryl Coates.

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Published December 15 by Michael Vogen
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In January 1985, the remains of an unidentified individual were discovered in a shallow grave in the area of MacArthur Boulevard and Stamford Road in Washtenaw County, Michigan. The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene and found the remains of a black female. Investigators determined that the woman was between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five years at her death. Her height was estimated to be 5’1” and she weighed approximately 105 pounds. The woman was wearing two sweaters, a heavy winter coat, and size 4 jeans. It was estimated that the woman had died only months prior to the discovery of her remains. Investigators determined that the woman had suffered a gunshot to the head and her death was ruled as a homicide.

During the course of the investigation, a forensic sketch depicting how the woman may have looked during her life was created and released to the public. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP9881. Despite investigators efforts, Washtenaw County Jane Doe could not be identified, and the case went cold for nearly four decades.

In 2021, the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the homicide victim. Othram's in-house forensic genetic genealogy team used the profile in a genetic genealogy search to develop new investigative leads that were returned to investigators.

Using these new leads, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office investigators conducted a follow-up investigation and met with potential genetic relatives of the woman. This investigation led to the identification of the homicide victim as Cheryl Coates. It is believed that Coates' murder occurred sometime between January 1984 and January 1985. Coates was known to frequent or live in the Southfield and/or Detroit area.

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office is seeking any information anyone may have regarding the circumstances of Coates' death. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office Detective Roberts (robertsb@washtenaw.org) or the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office Tip Line at 734-973-7711.

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Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. With dnasolves.com anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.