In September 1985, a local hunter was tracking a bear he had shot in the woods south of Missoula, MT when he came upon human skeletal remains. An initial investigation revealed that the remains belong to a female homicide victim. Investigators determined that the woman was likely between 20 and 35 years of age and around 5 ft and 100 pounds. Her hair was described as wavy, thin and brown. The female victim became known in the area as “Jane Doe 3UFMT” and “Christy Crystal Creek”.
The cause of death was two close range 0.32 caliber bullets to the skull. There were no clothes or personal effects found at the crime scene suggesting she might have been naked when she was left in the woods. The location of the remains was in close proximity to the location of another body of a female victim, found under similar circumstances — gunshot to the head, no clothes or personal effects. This second body belonged to a confirmed victim of suspected serial killer and rapist Wayne Nance. Thus, early on there was a presumption that Christy Crystal Creek was also a victim of Wayne Nance and that he may have assaulted and murdered her.
Nance was killed in 1986 during one of his home invasions so he was never arrested, tried, or convicted of these crimes, but investigators suspected that he was responsible for the assaults and murders of three Jane Does, including Christy Crystal Creek. The other two Jane Does were identified through DNA testing nearly 15 years ago. However, despite decades of work with forensic anthropologists and a forensic odontologist, and hours of research scouring missing persons databases in the United States and in Canada, the identity of Christy Crystal Creek remained a mystery.
You might be wondering how it is possible to develop such different impressions of the same person. Assessing ancestry from anthropological analyses alone is prone to inaccuracy and misclassification. Take a look at the case of Rodney Johnson and if you are interested, I discuss this problem in greater detail in a post titled “ Estimating Human Ancestry ”.
In a previous story, I recounted the case of Siobhan McGuinness , a 5 year-old girl living in Missoula, Montana, who was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1974. An all-star team of investigators from the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI worked together to identify Siobhan’s killer. My company, Othram , built the DNA profile that was used to identify the killer using forensic genetic genealogy. Othram can access genetic information from evidence that has failed other methods — evidence that has been deemed “unsuitable for analysis”. Othram excels especially in older cases ( we helped NCMEC solve their oldest announced case ) and we frequently take cases that have failed even the most advances DNA testing methods — cases like that of Siobhan McGuinness.
Evidence from the Christy Crystal Creek case also failed testing prior to Othram’s involvement. Othram scientists examined the case files and the evidence and felt confident that a profile could be built. In 2021, with financial assistance from Montana Department of Justice’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) program, the Missoula County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Unit formally engaged Othram to use Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing, in combination with a proprietary human enrichment process, to build a genealogical profile for Christy Crystal Creek.
This profile was returned to Special Deputies Susan Lane and Diana Parker, with the Cold Case Investigations Team. Working with Special Agent Steve Busch from the FBI, and after weeks of intense genealogy research, the team was able to identify genetic relatives and family trees which led them to the Lucas family in Spokane. After conducting numerous interviews and confirming their conclusions with additional DNA testing of relatives, they identified Christy Crystal Creek as Janet Lee Lucas.
After speaking with her family and friends it was determined that she was last seen in the summer of 1983 in Sandpoint, Idaho. No records have been found showing Janet living in, or spending time in Montana, so investigators are now appealing to the public, in hopes of finding anyone who may have known or seen Janet in Missoula in the summer of 1983 and into 1984.
This is the second case we have publicly announced with Missoula County Sheriff’s Office. Both cases were funded by the SAKI program and both were solved. To realize the full potential of SAKI, we must leverage advanced DNA testing methods to solve cases, especially when traditional forensic DNA testing methods fail .
If you want to learn more about the case, here are some great links:
The Missoulian covered the law enforcement press release announcing the identification of Janet Lee Lucas.
Oxygen.com covered the case and the continued collaboration between Othram and Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.
Othram maintains a profile on this case at DNASolves.com .