On a July day in 1972, a woman’s body was found wrapped in a bedspread on the side of the road in Brooksville, about an hour north of Tampa.
She was about 5 feet tall, had short brown hair and appeared to be in her 30s. But investigators with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office had no idea who she was or who killed her.
Detectives released a facial reconstruction made of clay to the public, hoping it would spur some tips. She was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
But she remained unidentified for more than 50 years and was classified as a Jane Doe. Her case grew cold and became the oldest unsolved murder case in Hernando County.
Now, thanks to advanced DNA testing, Hernando sheriff’s officials say they know who she is. And they have resurrected the investigation to try to figure out who killed her.
Her name was Peggy Joyce Shelton, and she was about 29 when she was killed. Though she was initially from Kentucky, investigators believe she came to Hernando County from North Florida or Alabama.
The first new break in the case came on Aug. 11, 2022, when Hernando Detective George Loydgren received a call from Michael Vogen, a case management director from Othram Labs who works with law enforcement agencies on so-called “unsolvable” cases by using advanced DNA testing.
Othram Labs is a forensic genealogy company based in Woodlands, Texas. They work with forensic professionals, medical examiners and law enforcement agencies across the world to help with cases that were thought to be a lost cause.
According to a news release that the sheriff’s office issued this week, Vogen provided Loydgren with Shelton’s name after scientists developed a DNA extract from her skeletal remains and used forensic-grade genome sequencing, a technology used to obtain DNA samples from degraded human remains, to find out who Shelton was.
Loydgren then collected a DNA sample from a potential family member of Shelton’s. When they compared the DNA, it matched.
The case is still being investigated by Loydgren in an effort to identify the person responsible for Shelton’s death, according to the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with information regarding Shelton’s death to contact Loydgren at 352-754-6830.