Decades-Old Mystery Solved: Mississippi River Body Identified as Missing Teenager


A decades-long mystery has finally been unraveled, bringing closure to a tragic chapter in American history. Forty-six years after the discovery of a body in the Mississippi River, LA News Center has identified the victim as a 15-year-old girl from Iowa named Helen Renee Groomes.

Forensic Breakthrough

The key to unlocking the victim’s identity lay in a combination of forensic evidence and scientific advancements. In 2022, Lincoln County Coroner Dan Heavin exhumed the body, which had been buried as “Lincoln County Jane Doe.” The remains were then subjected to a thorough analysis by anthropology students and faculty at Southeast Missouri State University.

Bone and dental analysis provided valuable clues, and DNA samples were sent to Othram Inc., a private laboratory specializing in forensic genome sequencing. Using cutting-edge techniques, Othram Inc. built a genealogical profile that led to the identification of Helen Renee Groomes.

A Grieving Family Gets Closure

The news of Helen’s discovery brought both relief and sorrow to her family. Her brother, Kevin Groomes, confirmed to KSDK-TV that Helen had gone missing in 1977. Kevin recalled that he was the one who had given her the tattoo on her arm, which bore the name “Del,” her boyfriend’s nickname.

A New Investigation

The identification of Helen Renee Groomes has revived the investigation into her death. The Wapello County Sheriff’s Office in Iowa, where Helen lived, has opened a new probe. The focus of the investigation is now on determining the circumstances surrounding Helen’s disappearance and tragic end.

Pieces of a Puzzle

  • Helen Renee Groomes was 15 when she went missing in 1977.
  • Her body was found in the Mississippi River near Elsberry, Missouri, in 1978.
  • An autopsy initially determined the body to be that of a woman aged 30-40.
  • Forensic analysis, including bone and dental examination, led to the identification of Helen.
  • A genealogical profile created by Othram Inc. provided crucial leads in the investigation.

A Path to Resolution

Although the mystery surrounding Helen’s death is far from over, the identification of her remains is a significant step towards bringing closure to her family and the community that mourned her absence. The ongoing investigation holds the promise of providing answers and potentially bringing justice for a life cut short.