Jane Marie Prichard was a 28 year old botany student. She was in the Blackbird Forest State Park on 20th September 1986. She was studying for her master’s degree. The subject was a plant called the Wild Hog Peanut. This meant she would drive 115 miles from her cottage in Maryland to set up and observe the plant in its natural habitat.
As we well know the outdoors are a marvelous place partly because of their opportunity for solitude. On that early fall day there were between 25 and 50 hunters in the general area. One of these saw Ms Prichard at about 10 am. At 5 pm a couple of campers found her body near where her equipment had been set up. She had been shot to death.
In a 1986 Washington Post article reporter Tom Vesey did a great human interest piece. This was only 8 days after the victim was found. According to the article and later enquiries we made the case was definitely murder. It remains unsolved. Mr Vesey described Ms Prichard as totally dedicated to her subject and well liked by those who taught her and otherwise knew her.
The motive was said to have been unknown at the time but I read in a Fox News article that this poor lady had been found only half clothed. The gunshot was a shotgun blast to the back. The hunter who saw her in the morning said she was talking to another hunter who looked like the below image.
Later, according to Fox News, the witness became a suspect. As for the guy in the above image, though it was circulated widely, he has never been traced. Notably the witness who says the above guy was chatting to the victim was cleared because his DNA did not match a hair found at the scene. I am only speculating but the hair must have been on the victim. If it had been in the general area it would not have had that much significance. That means they likely have a DNA profile of the killer?
I place the question marks because I am not sure. If you are an expert please let me know.
What happened that day can only be guessed at of course. We have no file to ponder over. What we can say is that sadly the isolated location lends itself to just such attacks. They occur all over the world. Fortunately the woods are still statistically safer than a crowded city street at 2 am. The problem is when attacks happen in the wilds witnesses and evidence can be hard to track down.
That didn’t stop the cops from trying. They dug up 300 witnesses that charted this lady’s movements until 10 am that day. A few years ago a couple of detectives were tasked with reviewing the case. The Fox News article talked of attempts to extract DNA samples from evidence and more in depth analysis. According to the New Castle County police website, however, at the time of writing the case is unsolved.
There is mention of electronic equipment being used by Ms Prichard. That and photographic activity put me in mind of another murder here in the UK. Shelley Morgan in 1984, one of many rural unsolved homicides we have written about where a lone female was the victim.
I am not linking them, it is just I never miss a chance to write the name of a victim…just in case someone passing through has something to say that could help.
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Links for the above
A rather excellent article at the time Click here
The Fox News Article Click here
The New Castle Police page for Ms Prichard Click here