Lisa Roberts: Girl who was shot SEVEN times in the head for refusing sex identified from DNA 43 years later
Roberts was shot seven times after she rejected the advances of a man who had picked her up on his vehicle
A teenager murdered in Washington state in 1977 who came to be known as 'Precious Jane Doe' has finally been identified, thanks to advanced genealogy and DNA.
According to a report by Q13 FOX of Seattle, the victim is now known to have been 17-year-old Elizabeth 'Lisa' Ann Roberts.
The determination came a whopping 43 years after her death after a joint effort by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit, Cold Case Team, and the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office.
"The DNA used for the identification was obtained from Lisa’s hair using a new scientific technique developed by Dr Ed Green, a scientist of ancient DNA and paleogenomics," the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "This new technique, previously thought to be impossible, enables DNA-based forensics from rootless hair and other difficult sources."
Roberts was born Elizabeth Ann Elder in Hood River, Oregon, in 1959, authorities said. After adopting her at age 2, Roberts' father reported her as a runaway on July 25, 1977. She was reportedly murdered 15 days later.
In 1977, investigators said Roberts was picked by then-20-year-old David Roth, who demanded sex. After being rejected by Roberts, Roth strangled her and shot her seven times in the head, thereby leaving her unrecognizable. According to The Everett Herald, she did not have a purse or driver's license on her person — and her body was left to decompose five days before eventually being found by nearby residents.
No one could identify her despite a composite sketch that was shared at the time. Mysteriously enough, Roberts was no longer listed missing in the National Crime Information Center. Roth, who was sentenced to 26 years after confessing to the murder, had also reportedly failed to ask what her name was. Roth spoke to The Daily Herald in 2008 after he was released from prison. “You pick up a stranger, a hitchhiker, she’s not going to tell you her name. You’re not trying to get personal,” the killer said. “She didn’t ask me my name.”
In 2008, authorities resumed efforts to uncover her identity and her remains were exhumed from a local cemetery. A medical examiner subsequently determined she was 17 at the time of her death. She was nicknamed Precious Jane Doe by Snohomish County Detective Jim Scharf — who spent 12 years on the case.
“This young girl was precious to me because her moral decision from her proper upbringing cost her her life,” Scharf said. “I knew she had to be precious to her family too, so I had to find them. We needed to give her name back to her and return her remains to her family.”
Investigators used genetic genealogy to build a family tree to identify Roberts' biological parent, and they were able to find a biological half brother by matching his DNA with her maternal DNA profile. Authorities subsequently acquired adoption records from the Oregon Health Authority. Scharf, who pioneered the new field of forensic genealogy on the law enforcement side, told Q13 FOX that it was "kind of hard to believe" when the health authority called him to say they had made a positive identification.
“I always have that feeling, it’s like, ‘This is like magic, how do you come up with this information?’ And it’s always correct. It’s the best tool in the world. If you can get DNA on a case, it’s always solvable now," he said.
The detective then proceeded to contact the victim's family and learned that she went by the name "Lisa." “I looked up to Lisa as my big sister, who would spend time with me and play with me downstairs," her younger sister Tonya told the paper. "We had a really good bond because we were both adopted.”
A memorial service for Roberts is being arranged and she will now be buried at a family plot in Oregon, police revealed.
“I am so proud and so thankful for the incredible work and dedication by Detective Jim Scharf and all of our partners and investigators who made this possible,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney in a statement. “For years Detective Scharf has had Precious Jane Doe’s story linked in his email signature trying to identify her. Although it wasn’t the answer anyone wished for, Precious Jane Doe finally has her name back, and she can now be returned to her family and loved ones.”