People go missing every year; some of which are never found. And, very occasionally, a body will be found in an unusual location. These bodies need to be identified, and the next of kin should be informed. One such Jane Doe was found in the Arizona desert a few years ago, and the revelation led to a chilling discovery.
Police Have a Lead
Years after the body was discovered, it came to light that Jane Doe may not have been unknown to the authorities after all. Police in Arizona were sure that this may have been the body of someone who had gone missing decades ago. Could this reopen a cold case? Was this Jane Doe body who they thought it might be?
Way back in April of 1981, the body of a young woman was discovered in the Arizona desert. The body was found by hunters who had been driving along the desert road. They noticed a distinctive item of clothing – a denim jacket – hanging from the branches of a tree, and this alerted them.
They soon discovered the woman’s body and informed the authorities. The autopsy revealed she had been killed around two days prior to her body being found, and the cause of death had been strangulation. The body was buried with a placeholder that had the name ‘Jane Doe’ written on it; meaning her identity was unknown.
The woman’s body was discovered near Pima County Fairgrounds in the desert of Arizona in 1981. And, it really makes you wonder how many other bodies may be out there in the vast expanse of that desert. It’s a chilling thought, but one the authorities have surely considered in light of this case.
There may well be a lot of unidentified and missing persons buried out there in that great wide open. It’s probably too great of a surface area to use resources checking the entire desert. But, we bet the cops are checking out the area where the body was found pretty thoroughly. How many other Jane Doe’s will they find in the sand and dirt?
Naming Jane Doe
A discovery like this made in 2017 would not take as long to crack. The police would use the modern technology and forensic treatments available. And this would help them crack the case in a pretty swift manner. The problem is that this was the 1980s, and the resources the cops had were pretty rudimentary.
This is one of the main reasons why the police were stumped as to who Jane Doe was. She wasn’t in any database so they had no way of identifying her. As such it proved very difficult to reach a milestone in the case. And, it wound up that the mystery of Jane Doe would endure for over 30 years.
This was one of the longest mysteries ever, and for over 30 years people wondered about the identity of Jane Doe. It wasn’t until we reached the 2000s that more data and technology became available. It was at this point that the police were able to make important inroads into the case.
The fingerprints through the system were still a bust, but, In 2006, they were able to take a DNA profile from her clothing, and this allowed them to create a DNA profile of a potential suspect. Eventually, this led them to new technology and the facial reconstruction profile that was created in 2012.
It’s amazing what crime labs and law enforcement can do and find out these days with the use of technology. Because of how advanced science and tech is now, the police were able to use an old photograph to solve the case and finally identify the Jane Doe using science and evidence.
After exhuming Jane Doe’s body in 2012 the police decided to use her skull in order to try to reconstruct her face. This was when they noticed the resemblance to a woman identified as The Flower Girl. This was when the cops realized they had the likely suspect all along, they just hadn’t known it, and he was in jail already.
John “Jack” Kalhauser
In 1995 a man named Jack Kalhauser was arrested for slaying Diane Van Reeth, his former wife. He went on trial and was convicted; he currently is serving a life sentence. When Kalhauser was originally arrested, he had in his possession a photograph of a blonde girl holding a bunch of flowers.
Police questioned him about the picture and the woman in it, but he refused to give details. It has recently been discovered that the woman in the photograph was of The Flower Girl; our very own Jane Doe! Kalhauser is now a person of interest in the murder Jane Doe.
By all accounts, Kalhauser was a pretty nasty piece of work. We know he is currently serving 20 years for the murder of his ex-wife. Her body was never discovered, but, an admission from Kalhauser led to his arrest and conviction. But, this was simply the culmination of a long list of prior criminal offenses committed by Kalhauser.
As a 17-year-old, he apparently shot Paul Chapman in cold blood, and was sentenced to 7 years for manslaughter; he was released after one year. In 1979, he shot his ex-girlfriend’s new partner Michael Renk and served time for attempted murder. The psychopath was always a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode.
True Crime Blogs
There are a lot of true crime blogs on the web, where people detail cases and discuss them openly. Curiously, one of these blogs was to hold the key to the woman’s identity, but not in the way we might imagine. A December 2014 blog post entitled “Pima Jane Doe and the Flower Girl” appeared on Cold Papers, penned by Steve Huff.
The post showed pictures of Jane Doe holding the flowers – the same picture Kalhauser had in his possession, as well as the police’s reconstructed picture. The article reached out for information about who the young woman might be. This was when a man got in touch with the author to confirm that the girl was, indeed, his sister.
The Last Days of Brenda Gerow
The man who got in touch was Bill Gerow, and Jane Doe was confirmed as being his sister, Brenda Gerow. It’s unclear just exactly what happened to Brenda after she ceased contact with her brother. It seems like she was murdered by Kalhauser in a violent attack, that also included sexual assault.
She was wearing distinctive items of clothing on the day of her death, including the denim jacket, as well as a blue shirt with puffy sleeves. It seems that her murderer was probably in a rush to bury the body, and that’s why he forgot about the denim jacket. Had it not been for this piece of clothing, the body may never have been found!
Not too much is known about Brenda Gerow, perhaps because she disappeared before anyone had a chance to record information about her. Had she gone missing now there would be all kinds of info available online, but this was the ‘80s. It’s known that Brenda had spent time with her brother the day before.
Bill Gerow detailed how his sister pierced his ear with a needle and ice cube, and that they hung out. Bill would be the last member of the family to see Brenda alive. It’s thought that the following day, Brenda left New Hampshire with her then-boyfriend, the aforementioned John “Jack” Kalhauser.
It is alleged that Brenda met John Kalhauser in a nightclub in Mass. They apparently began a romantic relationship, despite the fact that Kalhauser was on the run from the police. He had been involved in a nightclub brawl which had almost resulted in a man’s death and was wanted by police as a result.
He and Brenda left New Hampshire together and headed for Arizona. Bill said that his sister called him from New Mexico, and then again from Arizona around a month afterward. This is the last contact he had with her; he tried to write to her but received no response.
Searching For Brenda
The family made a concerted effort to find Brenda after not hearing from her for a long while. Bill even said that his father never gave up on the search for Brenda, despite his frustrations. Bill Gerow also looked for his sister, and, in more recent years, began to utilize social media sites.
Despite this, his search proved unsuccessful. So, why did it take over 30 years for Brenda to be identified and discovered? Well, Nashua police revealed that the young woman had never actually been reported as missing. She willingly left with Kalhauser, and, as such, there was not much the police could do.
Anxious for Answers
Since finding out the identity of Brenda, the family no doubt are experiencing mixed emotions. On the one hand, they must be relieved to finally know what happened to their beloved Brenda, but, on the other hand, there is an obvious sense of tragedy surrounding the whole thing.
The family still have many questions about Brenda’s movements in Arizona, and the time leading up to her tragic death. And they have appealed for members of the public to come forward with information if they have any. Whether they will finally get justice for Brenda remains to be seen, but it seems like Kalhauser is the man responsible.
Searching for a Reason
The worst part about something like this happening for the family is wondering why. It’s horrible hearing that a loved one has died, but, it’s even worse knowing that someone has taken their life. It makes you wonder what the motive was and why they would hate that person enough to want to kill them.
Brenda’s father, William Sr, was interviewed after the discovery and identification of Brenda. And he was, understandably, overwhelmed and floored by the news of his daughter’s death. He said that the family had thought she’d just run off and didn’t have a reason for why she was killed.
True crime documentaries seem to be extremely popular these days. Since Netflix shows like Making a Murderer, and Amanda Knox, our interest in true crime has surged in the past few years. And, it seems that Brenda Gerow is going to get the same treatment, with a documentary entitled Who Killed Jane Doe?, airing on Investigation Discovery.
The documentary series has proven popular so far and will feature the cold case murder of Brenda this year. The documentary will follow police investigations, interview officers, and look at the amazing technology that was used to finally crack the case after a staggering 34 years.
It is likely that the idea behind this documentary is the hope that it will provide and present new evidence or information. It may well help to encourage people to come forward with information about what might have happened and could unearth more answers to this mysterious case.
The police had already utilized modern social media with some of their findings to help them identify Brenda Gerow and her family. And, the hope is that a similar thing will happen with this documentary. The best part about it is that Brenda will finally have her story told after all this time.
This case could serve as a cautionary tale about being more careful with people you befriend. Of course, there’s no reason to assume that Gerow knew of Kalhauser’s history or background when she agreed to accompany him on a trip to Arizona; these days she would have had much more of an idea.
But, we can learn lessons from Brenda’s case, and that is that we need to be careful about trusting strangers. This chilling tale could have happened to anyone, and there are probably cases even today where similar things have happened. And we need to learn from this sort of thing to make sure the number of cases decrease.
The brutality of the murder, along with the other crimes Kalhauser committed, raise questions about the legal system. He has likely killed 3 people and attempted to kill a 4th, and yet he only served a few years in prison, before his most recent conviction. Someone like Kalhauser is clearly a psychopath, and should not have been released.
This makes us question whether jail time is the right sort of thing for a person like Kalhauser. It seems as though he would have been better served being committed to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation. There he could have been kept under surveillance, and would not have been able to commit further atrocities.
Whenever a dead body is identified, it is always a turbulent time for the family and loved ones. Nobody likes to know that someone they love is dead, especially in a violent fashion. But, at the same time, it is better than years of waiting, worrying, and wondering what happened to them, and if they will ever show up.
So, in a strange sense, Brenda Gerow being identified will give her family a sense of closure. Something they’ve not felt in over thirty years. They can work towards rebuilding their lives again and trying to come to terms with what has happened. Though it’s likely they probably still have a lot of questions that need answering as well.