Cleo’s Got a New Hobby

skull of unidentified woman
“The Woman in the Trunk”

Police in Frederick, Maryland, have a 31-year-old unsolved murder on their hands. The biggest roadblock to solving the murder is identifying the victim.

On August 24, 1982, two hikers who were mushroom picking discovered a steamer trunk close to a road in Gambrills State Park. The trunk was brown and gold. Inside were the skeletonized remains of a woman. She may have been in that trunk between 6 weeks and 6 months.

Police estimate the woman died in the spring of 1982. They also do not believe she came from the Frederick area.

As best the police could determine, the victim was a young, white woman, about 5’2″ to 5’6″ with a medium build. She had had a great deal of dental work done. Nearly all of her teeth had been filled and her two front teeth had been capped. Police believe the dental work had been done at a dental school.

Strangely, even with all that dental work she still had two impacted wisdom teeth that probably caused her discomfort.

steamer trunkAn anthropologist determined her family had been in America at least 3 generations. Amazing how they can figure stuff like that out.

Police think that the unidentified woman may have been a gymnast or a dancer because her hipbones showed some wear and tear. Her spine showed evidence of a lot of back bending.

Lt. Clark Pennington of the Frederick Police Department was quoted as saying, “The hope first off is closure for the family. This woman has to be missed by somebody, so somebody is out there looking for her. This victim has a family, so we want to fully investigate this crime, identify who she is, and be able to provide some closure for the family.”

In an effort to solve the mystery of the “woman in the trunk” the Frederick Police Department created and distributed a new sketch of the victim a year ago.

police sketch of woman in trunk“We felt now was the time to get a separate version of what she may have looked like,” Lieutenant Clark Pennington said in an interview with WTOP.

There were previous sketches made of the victim in these past 31 years. This latest one shows a young woman with a very hooked nose and long face. They put her medium length, brown hair into a ponytail to give the impression of someone athletic.

I learned about this case from the Daily Mail. The article included photos of the skull along with the police sketches.

I have lately taken to trying to digitally put faces on images of skulls. It’s my new hobby. Looking at the latest sketch — heck, even the earlier sketches — of the “woman in the trunk” I could find little resemblance to the skull. They didn’t fit together, in my opinion.

And so I took a stab at it myself. It couldn’t hurt, anyway. And here it is:

Woman in the Trunk
I assumed her eyes were brown because her hair was brown. I didn’t make her smile because the skull was missing a front tooth.

I may be close or I may be way off, but I am hoping it’ll get people casting their minds back to 1982 and thinking of a friend or family member who was never heard from since then. Somebody somewhere knew this unfortunate murder victim.

So if anyone has any idea of the identity of the unidentified “woman in the trunk”, the Frederick Police Department would be pleased to hear from you.

If you have any information please contact:
Frederick Police Department
Lt. Tom Chase
Agency Case Number: 1982-12633

You may maintain anonymity when submitting information.
Daily Mail article

28 Responses to Cleo’s Got a New Hobby

  1. FlyingLeadChange says:

    Wow… you need to change careers and do this for a profession. Your drawing looks much more identifiable than the police one!

    This reminds me of the boy in the box… very possible they’ll never be solved, but it’s good to know that every now and then someone gives it a try. She may still have family out there who want answers.

    • Bengalpuss says:

      Flying leadchange, the boy in the box is heart breaking. I don’t understand how that little boy hasn’t been identified. Surely he must have had family or someone must have known his family, because its obvious that the family hurt that little boy. The detectives who were on the case, got him a bench near to where he’s buried, so people can remember this boy, and not forget about him. Most of the officers had tears rolling down their faces. rip little one, I’ll never forget you. Cleo, that impression you’ve done is really good, a lot better than the one done by the police. What would be great is for someone to recognise the image and give the face of the victim a name, now that would be awesome, as the americans say. Well done cleo, im impressed.

  2. 2cute says:

    She looks human in your version. If she was from the 80’s I would be tempted to give her an 80’s hairdo, bigger and hairsprayed you know? But that might distract people from looking at her face.

    If she was dumped in a trunk by the side of a road maybe her killer(s) drove a truck. And if she didn’t come from that area maybe the killer was a long haul trucker. She could have come from the other side of the country or even Canada.

    The killer would need help to carry the trunk with the body inside so that’s why I think there was more than one involved.

  3. bulldoggy says:

    Now I’m going to do some guessing 2cute. With her bad teeth I am guessing she was neglected as a young child. Fillings on every tooth? She couldn’t have been made to brush daily growing up. She couldn’t have grown up on a dairy farm for sure — my cousins did and they had the strongest teeth from the milk they drank daily. She mustn’t have had much money as an adult if she went to dental schools for her fillings.

    They mention wear and tear on the bones and back but not broken bones so I don’t think she was beaten as a child, at least not severely.

    What are the odds a neglected girl got the chance to go into gymnastics or dance? Not likely. Parents who spend money on lessons like that would definitely have taken better care of their daughter’s mouth.

    I wonder if this girl was ever reported missing. She was probably old enough to marry. Do you ladies know if childbearing leaves wear and tear on hips and the back?

    Anyway those are my thoughts.

    • 2cute says:

      Bulldoggy, my turn. If the trunk was found at the side of a road it couldn’t have been there since her death. Six weeks to six months? No way. So probably she was decomposing in that trunk as it was being stored someplace before her killer decided to dump her. It would have to be stored someplace nobody noticed the smell.

      I am thinking it was her husband — he could lie to her family and tell them she never wanted to see them again. That’s why she wasn’t reported missing.

      Plus the trunk looks like it came from somebody’s home, so likely he killed her at home, stuffed her in the trunk, stored the trunk and finally put the trunk into his truck to dump it. I doubt the trunk would fit into a car. Maybe a van.

    • Bengalpuss says:

      Bulldoggy, i drank loads of milk, so much so, it was a running joke in my family, to buy me a cow for xmas, but my teeth had plenty of dental work, plus my bones ain’t that strong either, so you can never tell. I believe this unfortunate woman to be a sex trade worker, and unfortunately the odds were stacked against her. Now heavy drug usage, depending on which drugs you use, tend to rot the teeth, especially crack cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines fact. Also some prescribed drugs such as Methadone, and other oral opiates. So my theory is she was either desperate for her next fix, hence taking bigger risks, or had an arseole as a pimp, who wound beat her if she didn’t earn money fast enough. Thats what i think.

  4. Lillith says:

    Kudos, Cleo, excellent rendering.

    Bulldoggy, here’s some food for thought:

    “They mention wear and tear on the bones and back but not broken bones so I don’t think she was beaten as a child, at least not severely.

    What are the odds a neglected girl got the chance to go into gymnastics or dance? Not likely. Parents who spend money on lessons like that would definitely have taken better care of their daughter’s mouth.”

    What if she were an exotic dancer? I worked in a club in my younger days, and I guarantee you, dancing for 8 hrs. a night 6 days a week it will do a number to your body. Sure, you’ll have great muscle tone, but what would that do to you hip bones & spine?
    I also think your right about being neglected. What if she were a runaway? Left home to escape her neglectful parents only to end up working as a dancer or prostitute? Now, mind you not all dancers are prostitues, but just about every prostitute does work as a dancer. People don’t generally file missing persons reports on prostitutes unless they’re a member of thier family. She may have been murdered by a pimp, a john, or just a deranged sicko who get’s thier jollys ala Gary Ridgeway.
    Just a thought from the dark mind of yours truly.

    • 2cute says:

      OMG Lillith that makes so much sense! An exotic dancer would have the hip and back bending wear and tear, and she could disappear so easily! If she ran from her family they wouldn’t even know she was murdered. I think you’re right!

      • Lillith says:

        And when dancers decide to quit or leave a club it’s not often they give 2 weeks notice. Most of the time they just leave not to be seen or heard from again except by close friends or family. Legit clubs do however keep records of the girls that work there & when, but if she were underage or using a fake ID records would be wrong or non-exsistant.

        (and this is why I want to complete my forensic psychology degree :) Just trying to do my part to help clean up the world & take out the trash!)

    • cleo says:

      One thing I didn’t mention because I didn’t think it was too relevant was the police figured this young woman wore high heels a lot, based on the shape her feet were in. That would fit in with the exotic dancer theory far more than with the gymnast/cheerleader idea. Good thinking, Lillith!

      • Lillith says:

        Standard rule in ANY club I’ve ever seen is a minimum 3″ high heel. I still have my 6″ ankle breakers in the back of my closet.

    • bulldoggy says:

      My life is too boring if exotic dancers never even crossed my mind. Must be getting old. Sigh. But Lillith I think you are probably right. And it makes sense then that she chose to cap her front teeth before she got around to having her impacted wisdom teeth taken care of because appearances would count for a lot in that profession.

      • 2cute says:

        Trouble is if she was an exotic dancer she would have worn a lot of makeup so she wouldn’t be easily recognized bare faced by those who worked with her. Plus her customers probably didn’t even check out her face.

        • Lillith says:

          Maybe so, maybe not. Not all dancers are painted up severely, because that’s not a look that attracts alot of customers. Most gents perfer a touch of make-up to enhance, but when the girl is painted up like a hooker most men (especially the ones with big wallets) will pass them up. Men find such women look cheap, and looking like that will only bring cheap clients. Most dancers learn this pretty quickly. Altho places like that do tend to have poor lighting, which would make facial recognition difficult, but not impossible.

  5. MSM says:

    First off, that sketch is horrible. Sometimes I wonder about our law enforcement offices – with all the technology they have at their fingertips, THAT’S what they come up with? You definitely need to change professions, Cleo – your rendering is much better. From the look of the skull I’m not sure where they got the depth perception to determine that she had a hooked nose. Bunch of dumbasses.

    And I think Lilith’s probably right – it’s highly likely that she could have been a dancer in a club. Given the time frame she was found and where she was located, there’s a good chance she could have been one of Shawcrosse’s victims that he copped to but couldn’t name. He had quite a few of those as I understand it.

    When I had to take Forensics II we did a lot of study on tissue depth, decomp and development. The original computer rendered sketches were rarely, if ever, close. The art program Cleo is using should be what law enforcement is using because it actually produces something that LOOKS like a human, not some halfassed guess work using canned eyeballs, noses and chins.

    • Bengalpuss says:

      Msm, shawcross, was something of a bullshitter also, by embellishing his crimes. Granted he was a murdering bastard, and wanted to make out he was the worst serial killer that ever roamed the planet. If shawcross murdered this unfortunate woman, he’d have mentioned it. I also don’t buy the exotic dancer, to me i believe she was a sex trade worker, who has been picked up by a punter, tried to rob him, or he was just a murdering bastard, like gary ridgeway. She became one of the unfortunate ones who the odds are stacked against. Believe me i know, but we won’t go there. America is huge, not like little old britain, lorry drivers can pick one girl up in one place, and dump her body thousands of miles away. The chaotic lifestyle of a sex trade worker, coupled with the desperation of a drug habit, or fear to earn money quickly so her pimp doesn’t beat her, drives her to take more risks. Family don’t usually report her missing for fear they might get her into more trouble. Lets hope that someone does eventually recognise her, so she can go home for her loved ones to lay her finally to rest. Rest in peace love, whoever you are.

      • Lillith says:

        Bengalpuss, I don’t know how it works where you are, but here in the US many sex workers are also strippers. It’s easy money and free advertising. Plus it fits with hip, spine and heel wear & tear. Also, the majority of sex workers here in the US live on the fringes of society, having little to no contact with their parents & family (most people just don’t want to be understanding when someone they love is a prostitute), or they keep the fact a secret when they do have contact with family. Who did it is anybody’s guess, but that’ll be easier to figure out if/when we can figure out who she is. She likely lived a very high risk lifestyle. With the insane amount of dental work I would venture to say she might have been on some sort of hard drugs, as certain drugs like crack cocaine, will rot out the users teeth after long term smoking. And not too many people want the stripper or hooker with a jacked up grill or no teeth at all. Of course the majority of exotic dancers & prostitues are also on an assortment of drugs so either way it fits the profile of the victim.

        • Bengalpuss says:

          lilith, in britain, only the young fresh faced girls get to work in the dance clubs, by the time they’ve been at it for 6-12 months, if they’ve gone down the familiar drugs route, they look haggard, and become unemployable in the clubs. Some girls, and this is rare, use their brains advertise in magazines and newspapers or the internet, and work inside and save their money. The vast majority of women who wind up dead in an alley or field, are the street workers, not the dancers or the girls that work the sauna’s. Yes these girls can also make mistakes, but the odds of the women found dead are the ones that are really hooked on drugs, losing their looks because of the drugs, so are a lot more desperate. If a punter is window shopping and sees some girl that looks like she,s been dragged thru a bush backwards, he’s not gonna want that girl, thats when the girl starts to take risks, like offering sex without a condom, or lowering her price, and agreeing to go somewhere remote to do the business. Maybe the woman started out as a dancer, but ended up on crack or whatever, and she didn’t look like she used to, hence taking bigger risks. Thats what i think, but its a moot point now, because she,s deceased and whatever she did, she lost her life. She may not even have been in the sex industry and it could of been a husband that decided to kill his wife, whatever i hope that someone does eventually recognise her, so her family and friends know what happened to her, and the killer brought to justice.

          • Lillith says:

            Here in America just about anyone can work in a club. As long as you can dance, you can get hired somewhere. There was one woman I saw in her 50s who barely spoke english who was doing it. Hell, I saw one pair that was a mother in her late 40s and a daughter in her 20s who worked as a team. American club owners have come to realize that it really does take all types. And your right, it could’ve been a husband who killed thier wife. It really would be hard to tell until she’s identified. With any luck maybe someone will recognise her and it’ll lead to her killer. I think justice is the one thing we can all agree on here.

        • Jamie says:

          Lilith, you’ve made a lot of good points. I have to wonder though- would someone using (especially if they had an addiction to) hard-core drugs actually be the type to seek out getting that much dental work done? I would think they’d be rather careless in this department?

          I can see malnutrition or vitamin deficiency giving way to her dental problems as well as bone wear and tear.

    • cleo says:

      MsM, since you took Forensics courses possibly you could tell me where I could source skull photos of unidentified people. My search on the internet comes up mostly with skulls encased in poorly rendered clay models that, sad to say, look like junior high art projects. In my opinion those skulls should be freed after they remain unidentified for a few years so that new efforts can be made using better technology and/or skills.

      • Bengalpuss says:

        Have you tried the doe network cleo? But like you said most of them are encased in thick clay. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for you cleo, you never know what you can come across on the internet.

    • Bengalpuss says:

      Worst case of forensic identification i’d ever come across, was a black female sex worker from leeds west yorkshire, where im from. I won’t mention her name out of respect to her family, anyway when the police did the photofit, they actually took a picture of the woman who was now deceased, onto a picture of a police woman wearing the clothes that the woman was last seen in. Now thats all well and good, until wu looked carefully at the picture, the stoopid west yorkshire police had only used a white police woman, and the giveaway was the police womans hands that were uncovered, didn’t match the colour of the poor woman, and by the time it was spotted, it was too late as thousands of leaflets had been distributed to local business’s and homeowners, suffice to say, they never screwed up again. And that tale my friends is true, no bullshit.

  6. Jamie says:

    Have to wonder if there’s any way to try to trace the steamer trunk to a certain company or person if they still have it in evidence. Also have to wonder if there isn’t a way to try to lift DNA from the trunk now that DNA is as advanced as it is.

  7. Jamie says:

    As far as the “hook nose” are they figuring she has had a broken nose or is there another explanation for why they feel this is similar to what her features should be?

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