9 Investigates

Science provides new lead in 30-year-old Florida cold case

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — High-tech testing on human remains has narrowed down the search field in a 30-year-old cold case.

Investigative Reporter Karla Ray first told you about the isotope testing being done to narrow down where an unidentified person lived before being found dead in Lake County.

The results are giving Lake County investigators the strongest lead they’ve gotten so far on the case.


The analysis shows the likelihood that someone was raised in different regions of the world, based on the food and water consumed throughout their life.

“I never would've thought, in criminal justice, I would be working with scientists to solve a case,” Lake County Sgt. Tamara Dale said.

In the cold case of Julie Doe, who was found dead in 1988 along the Lake-Polk County line, the isotope analysis revealed a very strong possibility that she was from South Florida.

For years, investigators were working on the assumption that the body was that of a male, but a few years ago testing revealed that the person was likely transitioning to female at the time of death.

9 Investigates: New technology could bring closure to cold cases

“I feel like she probably didn't have an easy life.  Her lifestyle, being transgender in the 1980s,” Dale said.  “And obviously, I don't think she had a very easy death, either.  Probably a victim of a homicide.”

Forensic researchers at the University of South Florida just finished the isotope analysis to narrow down where Julie Doe likely grew up and lived before death.  Though the analysis narrows things down, there are still dozens of missing persons cases on file from that area of the state to cross-reference.

“There’s a lot of them, but there aren't as many of them in South Florida as there are, say, in the world, in the country,” Dale said.

Dale has put out a "be on the lookout" to urge agencies in South Florida to cross-check their own cold cases, hoping that with a new lead from science, she can close this case for good.

“Right now, this is the best chance we have.  It's a 30-year-old case, and cases like this get lost in time,” Dale said.

Contact investigative reporter Karla Ray

Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.