Authorities identified the skeletal remains of a pregnant woman who had been discovered in a well 33 years ago as Lisa Todd on Tuesday.
Todd’s remains were found at the old Publicker Distillery in Bensalem, Pennsylvania inn 1988, but the 17-year-old had disappeared from Philadelphia in October 1985. According to police, someone had been walking by the old distillery on State Road when they stumbled upon a decaying body inside of the well. However, the only identifying clues that were left behind were the victim’s shoes and her skeletal remains. The police were stumped by the discovery and the woman became known simply as “Publicker Jane Doe” for over 30 years.
Despite the lack of physical evidence that was left behind on the young woman’s body and in the well, investigators never gave up trying to identify the mysterious remains. Finally, after three decades of no leads, a team of genealogists built a profile of the victim’s DNA via 23and Me and constructed a family tree.
The family tree was traced back to Linda and Joseph Todd on Tuesday, who still live in Philadelphia. Detectives said that the Todd’s were stunned when they received the call about this finding.
“After I summed it up, I said, ‘Do you have a sibling that vanished or disappeared?’ And I was told, ‘Yes, I have a sister that disappeared in the fall of ’85,'” Bensalem Police Detective Chris McMullin said. When asked about how the siblings reacted to news, McMullin added that they were “relieved, surprised, emotional, shocked.”
Police believe that Lisa Todd had attended Frankford High School before dropping out freshman year and having her first child. At the time of her death, she had a two-year-old son.
“The family was so grateful that we were able to put some closure. Here’s a son that was two years old when his mother disappeared, and now that young man has closure,” Fred Harran, the director of public safety for Bensalem police, said on Tuesday.
However, authorities still don’t know if her Todd’s death was criminal or accidental. In fact, there are myriad unanswered questions that must be examined before investigators can make a judgement call about how and why her remains showed up in that well 33 years ago.
“Who she was with, whether or not there was any drug or alcohol use, whether this was intentional or accidental, people that could account for her whereabouts and what she was doing. We need the public’s help,” Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub outlined.
Yet, Weintraub didn’t discount the possibility of foul play. “Pregnant ladies don’t just fall into wells and die,” he said. “Something happened.”
If you or anyone you know has information to help solve the case, you can contact Bensalem Police Department at (215) 633-3719 or the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office at (215) 348-6344.