Proper funeral held for identified Kentucky Jane Doe
A woman stabbed to death in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1969 was given a proper funeral Saturday afternoon.
After being known as Mountain Jane Doe for 47 years, DNA tests revealed her identity last September as Sonja Blair Adams. Adams was 20 years old when she died.
“I’ve known as early as I could remember, I was told my mother was murdered and dropped on Little Shepherd’s Trail,” Adams’ daughter Karen Stipes said.
Stipes spent years of her life trying to find her mother, not knowing of Harlan County's Mountain Jane Doe.
Her story, however, never died in Harlan. It captured the minds of locals like Darla Jackson.
She spent years trying to discover the woman's identity. The mystery around the unidentified girl was immortalized through Jackson’s book and documentary “The Dead Unknown.”
A representative of the National Unidentified and Missing Person System says the Harlan community’s remembrance brought attention to Mountain Jane Doe's story. It ultimately helped identify her and who Stipes was searching for.
In 1969, the people of Harlan buried the unidentified girl. Stipes credits the town’s coroner who gave her the chance to confirm her mother's identity.
“He put her away in the best coffin at the time," Stipes said. "If he had not done that, I probably couldn’t have even proven it with DNA.”
Throughout the years, people in Harlan cared for the grave site. Stipes said she spoke with a man at the grave one day before the body was exhumed for DNA testing.
“When I heard about the people of Harlan, and how they visited her grave, and how they cared for it and always tried to find out who she was," Stipes said. "It touched me so much that I wanted to have her funeral in Harlan."
Though her mother was buried previously, Stipes held Saturday’s service in Harlan to properly remember her mother.
Stipes thanks the Harlan community and those who helped identity her.
She says the funeral completed two of three goals she has.
“I can never stop until she gets justice. I have to have her murder solved,” Stipes said. “I know it can be solved, it just takes the right people."
Stipes hopes as Sonja Blair Adams' story continues to grow, someone will step forward with information about the murder.
“I’ve done a lot of research,” Stipes said. “I’m not saying I can solve it, but I know it can be done. Think about it. We’ve come so far.”