Thursday, July 18, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fourteen Years Waiting For A Name -- Killer Long In Jail, But Victim Still Unidentified

EVERETT - Her killer went to prison, but neither her family nor her friends were in court to see him sentenced. Her body lies in an Everett cemetery, but no relatives witnessed the burial.

The man who picked her up by the side of the road strangled her with an elastic cord and shot her in the head seven times when she refused to have sex with him. He never got her name.

Fourteen years later, the Snohomish County medical examiner's office is still trying to discover her identity. "There still might be next of kin," said chief medical investigator Ken Stensrud. "It would be nice to tell somebody whose daughter has been missing for years that we know where she is."

In a county grappling with 33 unsolved murders and now a spate of dismemberments that make identification especially difficult, the case has a certain irony. This Jane Doe's killer has been caught and prosecuted, but there may never be a name on her gravestone.

There are few clues to go on.

Blackberry pickers searching through woods near Paine Field found the woman's partially decomposed body Aug. 14, 1977. She had been dead about five days.

The woman wore cut-off denim shorts, a striped shirt, tennis shoes and a brown leather watchband with a gold-face watch. She had no purse or identifying papers in her pockets. She was about 5 feet 8, weighed 155 pounds, and had no unusual scars or tattoos.

Her teeth were in good condition, with only one tiny filling,

making it harder to trace her dental records. Investigators speculated she might have grown up on the East Coast, where the mineral balance in water could have kept her teeth so white. Her hands were too decomposed to obtain fingerprints .

As the body was discovered, 22-year-old David Marvin Roth was picked up by Gold Bar police on a weapons charge. An informant told police Roth had described picking up a hitchhiker days before and drinking beer with her. She told him she lived with two men. They went into the woods. She resisted his advances, and he killed her.

Police matched slugs found in the woman's head to Roth's .22-caliber rifle. He was convicted in 1979 and sentenced to life in prison.

His victim's skull languished in a courthouse evidence room until recently, when it was forwarded to the medical examiner to be destroyed. Instead, Dr. Eric Kiesel, medical examiner, decided to try again for an identity.

The case is one of the oldest active Jane or John Doe cases in the region, according to Bill Haglund, King County chief medical investigator.

Haglund's oldest unidentified body goes back to the early 1980s, including three probable victims of the Green River killer. The Pierce County medical examiner has four active John and Jane Doe cases going back to 1987.

Haglund said the Snohomish County case is the only one he has heard of in which the killer has been convicted.

"In her case, justice still hasn't been done because she's not identified, and the family doesn't know," Haglund said. "Part of justice is resolving grief."

The killer or killers responsible for the Snohomish County morgue's other unidentified bodies may never be found. Some are believed victims of a serial killer who, Sheriff Jim Scharf speculates, is dumping body parts around the southeastern part of the county to keep his victims from being identified.

Besides the 1977 Jane Doe, there is a man who appeared to be Native American, found in Bryant in the early '80s; a dismembered man whose parts were scattered from Ebey Slough to Gold Bar; an unidentified teenage girl found just over the county line near Canyon Park on New Year's Day 1988; and a leg and pieces of scalp found this year that may belong to the same man.

Scharf can't get more money for staff, so Kiesel is looking for an anthropologist or forensics student to do a free-clay reconstruction of the 1977 victim's head. The case is too old for them to ask for money in the medical examiner's budget, Kiesel said.

"In the meantime, we're just hoping for somebody to come forward before we bury her skull," Kiesel said.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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