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'All it takes is one little piece': Jane Doe identified as missing Ohio mother 34 years later

Kentucky State Police say DNA testing provided a crucial breakthrough in a decades-old cold case.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Jane Doe found dead in Kentucky finally has her name 34 years later. Kentucky State Police (KSP) say the unidentified woman is Linda Bennett - a mother, grandmother, sister and daughter from Columbus, Ohio. 

The WHAS11 UNSOLVED team first covered her case four years ago when she was only known as Jane Doe. The team was given access to the evidence, crime scene photos and witness that found the body. 

It was May of 1988 in Corinth, Kentucky when Joy Kelly and her husband spotted the woman's body in tall grass abandoned on the side of the rural road.   

"The thing I remember most, and I mentioned it to the detective, she was wearing nothing but men's socks and they were pulled up perfectly. Brown socks just perfectly done," Kelly said. 

Kelly reported the body to police. Even three decades later she said the details of the disturbing discovery are cemented in her memory.

"Everything. Everything about it I remember. And I know what was I wearing. I know what my husband was wearing. I know what my plans were for that day. You don't, you don't forget it," Kelly said. 

Over the next three decades, multiple KSP detectives would take on the case. When Detective Endre Samu took the lead, he re-interviewed more than 20 people looking for answers. He also discussed a critical piece of evidence in the case - a hair sample collected by the coroner at the scene.

“When the coroner obtained the hair samples he didn’t know that DNA was going to be coming down the pipe. He just collected it because it was there and nobody else picked it up," Samu said.

It would be that DNA sample that eventually lead to a break in the case. 

New information lead the detectives to the woman's son this year, who submitted his DNA and it was a match. Bennett's family explained she lived in another state, but when they didn't hear from her for months, they reported her missing to police in Ohio. 

That report was taken one month after she was found dead. 

Communication between police agencies wasn't what it is today. There were no national databases for missing people and unidentified remains. 

DNA testing was also a distant dream. For these reasons, and others, the missing woman was never linked to the unidentified body found 160 miles away.

"All it takes is one little piece and it's finding that one little piece that might resolve this thing," Samu said.

Now investigative efforts are ongoing. Bennet's case is a homicide, and police continue to search for the person or people responsible. 

The family released a statement that reads in part:

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Detectives Samu, Johnson and Barnett as well as the many detectives with the Kentucky State Police department that have worked this case for over 33 years. We cannot thank you enough for your relentless search to identify the remains of Linda- and your ongoing efforts to find those responsible for her murder.

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