Sunday, October 16, 2016

Princess Doe

The grave of Princess Doe
Unidentified murder victim
Cedar Ridge Cemetery, Blairstown, New Jersey
On one of my many trips to the eastern portion of the state, I jumped across the border to Cedar Ridge Cemetery on the outskirts of Blairstown, New Jersey. Although it is only a short distance from New York City, Blairstown holds the feeling of small-town America. As I drove slowly through town I had a feeling I had been there before, yet I knew this was my first visit. I would later discover the reason it looked familiar – the beginning of the original Friday the Thirteenth movie was filmed here.

But the famous movie was not the reason for my visit. I arrived at Cedar Ridge Cemetery in search of a grave – the grave of a girl known merely as Princess Doe.

The sad story of Princess Doe has always been in the back of my mind since I first read about it many years ago in one of those cheap detective magazines gas stations sold. After a visit to East Stroudsburg, I crossed the river and headed to Blairstown in order to pay my respects to the girl only known as Princess Doe.

On July 15, 1982, the innocence of Blairstown would be lost forever when maintenance workers discovered the badly battered body tossed over the bank on the southeastern corner of the cemetery. The body was that of a young girl who was savagely beaten with a blunt object which destroyed most of her features. It is believed she had been deceased between one and three weeks before she was discovered. Due to the time of her death and the gruesome discovery the identity of the young lady was and still remains a mystery.

Unlike other John and Jane Does, Princess Doe was given the name because she was somebody's princess. Local policeman Eric Kranz gave her the name because he felt she should not be forgotten. The town did not want her to be buried in a Potter's Field, so money was raised and she was buried on January 22, 1983 in the same cemetery, roughly a hundred yards from where her body had been discovered.

On June 30, 1983, Princess Doe was the first person entered into the FBI's computerized database of unidentified deceased persons.

While her identity remains a mystery, some clues do exist that may one day help identify her. She was a little over five feet tall and it was estimated she weighed around one hundred and ten pounds. Sadly, it is believed that she was between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. She was Caucasian, had shoulder-length brown hair and was wearing a red V-neck pullover with a red, white and blue print wraparound skirt. She also wore a gold chain with tiny white beads and a 14-karat gold cross on it. I want to make note that a couple of places state her cross was a rosary – this is not correct it is definitely not a rosary in the picture released by the police.

A strange piece of information that is included when she was found was the fact she only had the fingernails of her right hand painted a shade of red. The nails on the left hand were not painted. Something that pops into my mind is I wonder if she was left-handed? After all, most right handed people tend to paint the nails on their left hand first. So, if she was in the process of painting her nails, perhaps she was left handed and had only completed painting the nails on her right hand when abducted. I’m not sure if it is or isn’t the case, but it’s just a thought that I haven’t seen in any of the articles I've read.

The identity of the girl has yet to be determined, though many have made it their goal to solve the identity of Princess Doe.

One of the most popular theories for years was Princess Doe was Diana Dye, who disappeared from California in 1979. Looking at the pictures of the two, I can see why it was thought Princess Doe and Diana Dye were one and the same. It would not be until 2003, with the advances in DNA testing that Diana was ruled out as Princess Doe's identity.

In 1998 the case made news when a former prostitute told police that Arthur Kinlaw, who ran a prostitution ring and is currently serving time in prison, had beaten to death a young girl in a New Jersey cemetery. The former prostitute was also present when the murder took place but remained silent when he threatened to kill her if she told anybody what had happened. According to the witness the girl was definitely from New York, possibly from the Long Island area. While Kinlaw has become a prime suspect, he has never been charged with the crime (or at least I’ve never found reference to him being charged).

Many other theories of who killed Princess Doe and who she actually was have been presented over the years. Many claim she was from Ocean City, Maryland. Others claim she was the victim of a serial killer. Some even go as far as saying she was killed by somebody in the community. Police have investigated and ruled out many of these theories.

In 2012 tests on samples of her hair were performed and due to the mineral content in the sample, it is believed that she lived a transient lifestyle for the ten months before her murder. The sample indicated she spent some time in the southwestern United States before arriving on the eastern coast.

Beyond that the trail of who Princess Doe was has grown cold. While her story pops up in the newspapers from time to time, the possibility of ever being identified grows dimmer and dimmer.

I pulled into the small cemetery with only vague directions to the location of Princess Doe's resting place. I knew it was on the eastern edge of the cemetery and using that little bit of information, I started walking along the treeline. I managed to find her resting place within a couple minutes. Her grave lies beneath the shade of old trees that had probably witnessed her brutal death.

As I stood there I couldn't help but wonder why the young girl had yet to be identified. Surely she had family somewhere who missed her. I know if one of my loved ones disappeared I would not stop looking for him or her. But no family has ever stepped forward to identify the body.

I laid the rose I had brought on her stone and stood there lost in thought. I couldn't help but wonder who she would have become. Maybe she would have been married and had a family. Maybe she would have been rich and famous. Maybe she would have gone on to solve one of the world's countless problems. Or maybe she would have lived a simple, quiet life out of the public’s eye.

Sadly, we will never know as her life was brutally cut short.

I said a silent prayer for her before leaving, asking that one day her identity may be discovered, though deep inside I realize that the possibility becomes slimmer with each passing hour. I left her alone, dead among strangers, but eternally watched over by the residents of the community.

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