Closure for Family as Police Identify Cold Case Victim

WEST HAZLETON--- The family of a cold case victim in Luzerne County finally has some answers.

They spent close to 50 years suspecting Jane Doe 1970 was their loved one. Now, they have the proof.

Mitchell Johnson said his heart sank into his stomach when state police told him Jane Doe 1970 was identified as his aunt, Lucille Frye. He said his mom suspected it all along.

“To finally put a headstone on the grave that I knew all this time was my aunt, I knew. She was Jane Doe for 46 years and now she'll have a name,” Johnson said.

Frye went missing from Wilkes-Barre around the same time an unidentified body was found in the woods off I-81 near Nuangola. Since then, it has been considered an unsolved homicide.

In September of 2016, her remains were exhumed so police could try to figure out who she was. Johnson was there and told police his family always thought Jane Doe 1970 was his aunt.

“My mother knew because my aunt was missing and in 1970 the population of black people in Wilkes-Barre might have been around 400,” Johnson said.

After talking with investigators in the cemetery that day, Johnson and some of his family members gave state police some of their DNA. However, Lucille Frye's body was so decomposed that investigators weren't able to make a match. Months later, Frye’s only living brother gave some DNA and finally a match and a positive identification was made.

“Sometimes it's just that little bit of information that allows us to basically find out who it is, and that's your first step towards coming to a successful conclusion,” Capt. Robert Bartal said.

Even though so much time has passed since Frye was buried, she was actually never too far from her family.

“Mitchell's family is also buried not actually that far from where these unidentified are all buried at,” Cpl. Shawn Williams of the Criminal Investigation Unit said.

The investigation into her suspicious death is ongoing.

Fyre will be buried next to her family later in May.

Law enforcement and the district attorney’s office want to help even more families with missing loved ones find answers.

There will be a Missing Person’s Day at the Wilkes University Student Center on May 31st from 1-5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“To have them come out and have the family there, submit their DNA, it's something more we can do on these cases,” Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said.

People attending the event who have missing loved ones are asked to bring:

  • Two biological relatives of the missing loved one, both male and female
  • Police reports
  • X-rays, both dental and body
  • Doctor and dentist information
  • Photographs
  • Any other information that may help investigators

Families should preregister to ensure that their loved ones are commemorated in a vigil and slideshow.

To register, contact:

  • State Police Cpl. Shawn Williams: shawwillia@pa.gov
  • Megan Stone with the DA's Office: Megan.Stone@LuzerneCounty.org
  • Amy Dobbs with NamUs: Amy.Dobbs@unthsc.edu