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Mom and fetus found along river 44 years ago

Poor Beth Doe.

She was a young lady, close to giving birth, when she was savagely murdered. Her body was dismembered. She was also shot in the neck, possibly post-mortem. That was over 43 years ago.

Today, she and her fetus are buried next to each other in Laurytown Road Cemetery near Weatherly. The two graves are marked by white crosses.

Nobody knows who Beth Doe really is; or even from where she came.

Her killer - or killers - was never identified. And the case is as cold as what the waters of the Lehigh River were the day her body was found on the river’s bank, near the little town of East Side Borough.

Parts of the woman’s body and her fetus were packed into several suitcases, which were then tossed from an Interstate 80 bridge. The landed 300 feet below at the edge of the river, where some broke open.

Her body was discovered at about 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 20, 1976. It was a cold, rainy day. Many people were getting ready for the joyous Christmas season when the sorrowful event occurred.

Kenneth Jumper Jr., who was 14 at the time and a Weatherly High School freshman, was walking along the river where he used to do some trapping when he saw a human head next to a piece of luggage. He had just been there a week earlier and the suitcase wasn’t present. He raced home and told his big brother, Richard, who was 19 at the time. They called the state police.

One of the suitcases was found at the edge of the river. It contained the feet, hands, arms and pieces of possibly a chenille bedspread or robe.

About 30 feet away, the other two luggage bags and fetus were spotted.

Some parts of the body were wrapped in a copy of the Sunday New York Daily News, dated Sept. 26. It was a Northern New Jersey edition of the newspaper.

The head had dark hair. The nose and ears were severed.

The coroner at the time was the late Robert G. Deibert. He had the body transported to what was then the Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital in Lehighton where an autopsy was performed.

It was determined that the body was that of a Caucasian female, possibly of European descent, in its late teens to early 20s, approximately 5 feet 4 inches in height and weighing approximately 150 pounds. The young lady had shoulder length brown hair and brown eyes, two birthmarks on the face, and a 2-inch scar on the left leg.

The autopsy report indicated the date of death was likely between Dec. 17 and 20.

The case remains in police files as Incident No. N3-27244.

On Aug. 18, 1983, nearly seven years after being found and no clue of the identity, burial of the mother and fetus occurred in Carbon County Potter’s Field. Until then, their bodies were preserved in Philadelphia’s city morgue. The interment was conducted by the Rev. John A. Naegele of Lansford.

Although the young mother and her baby were never identified, and their killer never located, it was not without an extraordinary, nationwide effort made by police.

A police artist sketched a likeness of the murder victim and it was distributed to newspapers across the nation. Fingerprints were sent to the FBI.

Many leads were forwarded to investigators, but without success.

As an example of the types of information turned over to police, an article from The Boston Globe newspaper was sent to them. It was dated Dec. 16, 1976, and indicated that police were looking for a missing female schoolteacher who disappeared from her blood-splattered motel room during the weekend.

The article added that no signs could be found of her luggage.

However, that woman was found dead in Massachusetts in a wooded area the following April by Boy Scouts.

In 2007, her remains were exhumed to obtain additional forensic evidence and to create a new facial reconstruction. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released two reconstructions, the latest in May 2015.

Last September, the Pennsylvania State Police thought they caught a break. A tip had been submitted to police by a person who went to school with a Madeline “Maggie” Cruz and saw a resemblance to the reconstructions of Beth Doe. Cruz had last resided with a foster family. Around 1974, at the approximate age of 16, she ran away with her foster sister, who returned after a week.

In the summer of 1976, Cruz called a friend to request money, claiming she was pregnant.

She wasn’t heard from again until September 2019 when media reports reported the potential link to Beth Doe.

Later in September, police confirmed that Cruz was “alive and well.”

Anyone who might have information of Beth Doe or the case should call state police at 570-220-8475.