A teen happened upon a gruesome find of a woman’s severed head with the eyes closed and the mouth wide open lying in the woods just 10-yards off to the side of a Pennsylvania road. This horrifying discovery sparked a mystery that has lasted three years so far, as the identity of this woman still remains unknown along with the whereabouts of the rest of her body.
A special report from Reuters this week reported how this case has baffled the police for almost three years since the severed head was found in December of 2014. Authorities and medical professionals cannot determine how this woman died, her age, or the reason for her decapitation. Another big question baffling law enforcement is how this woman’s head ended up in the woods off that road.
This woman’s head was “professionally” severed and Reuter’s special report suggests that this find may be the result of a body broker. They believe the head may have come from something they’ve investigated in the past called the body trade.
The woman’s head was examined by Michelle Vitali, who is an anatomy professor at Edinboro University. In her expert opinion, the woman was “dismembered professionally.” She believes this woman was a victim of the “body parts trade.” A pathologist with more than 20,000 autopsies to his credit agrees with Vitali’s findings. Cyril Wecht examined the photos from the crime scene and had the following to say.
“We see a rather neat surgical dissection. Somebody took their time.”
Another baffling piece to this Pennsylvania severed head was discovered once they got this head to the morgue. A mortician’s tool called eye caps were used to keep her eyes shut. This was presumingly done by whoever severed her head. While there was nothing extraordinary about this, what they found underneath her closed eyelids was surprising.
The woman’s eyeballs had been replaced by red rubber balls, which is not something done in the mortician trade. She would have empty sockets if those balls were not taking up space where the eyeballs once were.
According to Reuters, “Her eyes may have been taken through organ donation. But if Jane Doe died recently, it is likely that “an eye bank or an organ procurement organization would only remove the cornea from an eye.”
Reuters reports they have investigated “thousands of body parts” since 2004 that had been “misused and desecrated.” In one case a body broker based out of Detroit “stored human heads by stacking them directly on top of each other without any protective barrier.”
It is more likely a body broker, who would have removed the eyes of that severed head to sell them to science for research, according to Reuters, the laws that regulate organ donations and the body broker business is substantially different.
In the past, authorities just happen to stumble upon these cases. Back in 2010, an airline employee discovered 40 severed heads in plastic containers as part of a shipment. A dead body without its head was found alongside a road in Texas two years ago. It was eventually discovered that the cadaver fell out of a van while being transported to a body broker and the driver didn’t realize the body was no longer on board.
It is the woman’s severed head found in the woods along that Pennsylvania road that authorities want the public’s help with identifying today. Andrew Gall, chief of detectives for the Beaver County district attorney’s office said the following.
“Two and half years plugging away at this thing. Got nowhere. It drives me crazy. I’ve been doing this job for a long time. I hadn’t had anything where I had a body part like this turn-up.”
Gall has not ruled out homicide he said, “Prove to me it’s not a homicide – that she was alive and someone killed her and played with that body,” he said, “including putting the red eyeballs in there.” Back in 2015, the Daily Mail reported that the woman looked to be age 50 or older.
They were considering the black market body part trade when the head was first found, according to the archived article from the Daily Mail after the severed head was discovered. It was as baffling to officials back then as it is today with many theories spawned about how the head came to be in those woods. The head was too far away from the road for it to have rolled off a truck and land there. The head was embalmed, and for that reason, animals would not go near it, said the official. So it probably wasn’t dragged to that spot from another by an animal in the woods, suggested the officials.
The officials involved in this case will not let it grow so cold that it becomes unsolved. With a forensic sketch and forensic model reconstructed of this woman’s head, they are hoping someone, somewhere out there in the public will be able to identify this woman. Gall, who is a 40-year veteran in law enforcement, takes pride in his abilities to solve cold cases and he has every intention of staying on this case until it is solved.
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