Princess Doe – The Mystery Girl In The Cemetery

princess doe

On a July summer’s day during the year 1982 the body of a young girl, later known as Princess Doe, was discovered. Sadly she is one of the thousands of unsolved murder cases in which we tragically never even know the true identity of the victim, let alone the perpetrator. This is the story of Princess Doe.

The Discovery

On the 15th of July 1982, cemetery worker George Kise was going about his duties at the Cedar Ridge Cemetery on state highway 84 in Blairstown, Warren County, New Jersey when he made a horrific discovery. In a shallow ravine towards the back of the cemetery, he found a woman’s body.

Laying on her back and with a skirt draped over her legs, her underwear missing, the poor victim was completely unrecognizable as her face had been barbarically caved in with an unknown object.

Cedar Ridge Cemetery, were the young victim was found.

The Medical Examiners Findings

Investigators were soon on the scene and the investigation, headed by Lt. Eric Kranz, got underway. They determined the body had been in the Cedar Ridge Cemetery for a period ranging between 2 days and a week. The reason for the vagueness of the medical examiners opinion was due to the humid heat conditions caused by a heat wave the area had been experiencingat the time the body was found.

The girl was determined to be between 14 and 18 years of age by the medical examiner. She was white, had medium length brown hair, was 5 foot 2 and weighed approximately 110 pounds.

To get an idea of the sheer brutality involved in the murder the victim’s face was so severely beaten beyond recognition that investigators weren’t even able to determine the victim’s eye colour. The victim had obviously put up a fight as there where clear signs of defence wounds on her arms.

The victim had red nail varnish, on one hand, it was undetermined as to whether this was simply the way the girl applied her nail varnish or if the other hand was varnish free for some other reason. It was also found that the victim had 2 ear piercings in her left ear, however, police were unable to tell if her right ear was pierced in a similar way, or at all, due to the decomposition of the girls body.

Investigators found the victim had generally good dental hygiene. It was noted though that she must have been in contact with a dentist as she had four fillings in her back teeth. Despite the general healthiness of the victim’s teeth examiner’s were also able to tell that she had a slight discolouration on two of her front teeth.

It was also determined that the victim had never given birth to a child and that she still had her appendix and tonsils. She also had no distinctive scars, birth marks or tattoos. Unfortunatley, none of the information that they had gathered got them any nearer to identifying the tragic young victim.

The medical examiner also confirmed that due to the amount of decomposition on the young victim’s body they were unable to determine several factors. First of all, despite the victim’s missing underwear, they were unable to tell if she had been sexually assaulted. Secondly, investigators were unable to tell if she had any drugs in her system.

The Investigation

A Witness Comes Forward

Police were hopeful the victims distinctive clothing may be able to lead to her identification. She wore a red v-neck shirt with yellow piping around the shoulder, and black and blue piping around the neck, waist, and arms. She also wore a red, white and blue “Peasant style” wrap-around skirt with peacocks around the bottom. A gold chain with a gold cross design was also found in the young victim’s hair.

chain of princess doe
The cross found tangled in the victim’s hair.

Blairstown resident and nurse Ann Latimer stated she had seen the girl in a supermarket two days before her body was discovered after seeing a picture of the girl’s clothes on the front page of the newspaper.

Latimer said she had been shopping with her daughter at the supermarket near Cedar Ridge Cemetery when her child saw the young girl’s dress with the peacocks on. The woman said she remembered this so vividly as she had to point out to her daughter that the birds on the skirt were peacocks and not eagles as the child thought.

The clothes Princess Doe was discovered in

Police hoped that this new lead may take the case forward, even putting Latimer under hypnosis in the hope of discovering some extra details the witness may have forgotten. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be the case.

Lt Kranz, upon hearing of the new lead, had all the bins in the supermarket checked and ran checks on all the cards used in the supermarket that day. Again, to no avail.

Lt. Kranz And Princess Doe

The man in charge of the investigation, Lt Eric Kranz, gave the victim the name Princess Doe. His reasoning was that he wanted to differentiate the young victim from the various other Jane Does (the name given to unknown female persons) and hoped that giving her the identity of “Princess Doe” would stop the case fading from peoples memory like so many Jane and John Doe cases do. It worked too, as the case was constantly covered in the media.

Over the years Kranz would become deeply affected by the case, even going on record to say there hasn’t been a single day in which he hasn’t worked on the case. Despite leaving law enforcement Kranz kept his word and still, over 30 years later, continues to look for answers.

Burial

The girl who would become known as Princess Doe was laid to rest on 22nd January, 1983 in the same cemetery in which her body had been discovered six months earlier. Usually unnamed victims would end up in a potters field but the local residents and businesses didn’t want that to be the case for this young girl. The community came together and provided a proper funeral for Princess Doe. Her headstone read:

“Princess Doe, Missing From Home, Dead Among Strangers, Remebered By All. Born ? – Found July 15, 1982”

Princess Doe’s grave.

Despite the hard work of Kranz and his team though, Princess Doe’s identity remained a mystery. The team checked thousands of fingerprints and looked at dozens of missing cases but to no success. In 1983 Princess Doe became the first unidentified crime victim to be entered into the FBI’s national computerized files (the NCIC). Sadly, the unfortunate victim remains in those same files, still unknown, over 35 years later.

Suspects, Leads, And Theories

The Gravesite Suspect

Despite no luck in finding the true identity of Princess Doe, Lt Kranz did come across an individual he considered a strong suspect. Locals had reported seeing a man at the grave of the victim several times shortly after Princess Doe was buried in January 1983. Kranz paid a visit to the grave and managed to speak to the man in question, Kranz decided the man warranted further investigation.

Lt. Kranz found the suspect lived locally but before moving to Blairstown the man had a history of voilent outburst, including arrest for fighting with police and assualting a family member. Kranz was also told by the suspects brother that he believed his sibling would be capable of such a brutal crime.

It was also discovered by Kranz that the suspect had sold his car to an out of state buyer just after the discovery of Princess Doe (Kranz theorized the murder didn’t take place in the cemetery, it was just were the victim was dumped). He travelled to New York in an attempt to trace the vehicle but was unsuccessful.

Despite his suspicions Kranz could find no physical evidence, but there was another problem. The prosecutor for Warren County, Howard McGinn, had informed Kranz that he didn’t want the suspect to be interrogated until after they had discovered the identity of Princess Doe.

Lt Kranz was becoming more and more frustrated. He was upset at how slow the state police had been to get involved with the case and help his department (which had just 9 officers). Then upon the New Jersey State police joining the investigation, Kranz was upset at the constant criticism and clashes over the way the investigation had been carried out. By 1985 Kranz finally had enough of the constant run-ins and resigned from the force. Kranz would never work in law enforcement again.

Kranz’s suspect was never named.

Diane Dye

Over the following years, investigators from New Jersey looked at several missing person cases in a hope of linking one to Princess Doe. The most prevalent of which was Diane Dye.

Diane Dye, who it was thought may be Princess Doe.

Diane Dye went missing from San Jose, California on 30th July 1979, when she was just 13 years old. The last known siting of Diane was made in December 1981 by a friend. Physically Diane Dye seemed a reasonable match, she was a similar age, height and build to Princess Doe. However Diane Dye’s family and former Lt., Eric Kranz where both convinced that Princess wasn’t Diane.

Despite this New Jersey Law Enforcement went public and proclaimed that Princess Doe was likely the body of the missing teenager Diane Dye. However as well as the family of Diane and the man who had been the lead investigator in Princess Doe’s murder Eric Kranz, the Californian law enforcement were also baffled and dismayed at the announcement made by the New Jersey police. Investigators in California working on the Diane Dye case were adamant Dye was not Princess Doe.

The body of Princess Doe was exhumed in 1999 to collect DNA samples. It was this DNA which would embarrass the New Jersey PD. In 2003 Kranz, Daine’s family and the California PD were proved right once and for all. After DNA testing, comparing Diane’s mother to the DNA of Princess Doe, it was confirmed that Diane Dye wasn’t Princess Doe.

Over the years many more missing individuals have been ruled out as been Princess Doe through DNA or dental records. These include Amy Yachimec, Emma Vaughn, and Kathleen Kelly who some believed were strong possibilities.

A Runaway From Florida

At some point during the investigation (I was unable to find a reference of source with a date) a woman came forward and told detectives she had seen Princess Doe just days before her body was discovered. The witness stated that she worked at a motel and had spoken to the girl when she checked in to stay.

The female witness stated that the girl had told her she was looking to become a maid at a hotel and that she was originally from Florida but she had run away (hence why Emma Vaughn, a Florida runaway, was considered a strong candidate at one point). The witness gave one final detail, that the girl told her that her father was a dentist.

Princess Doe and Ocean City, Maryland

In 1997 detectives followed another new lead. The new lead in question was that Princess Doe had come to Blairstown from Ocean City, Maryland. Investigators never revealed where the lead came from but it was interesting that they offered a $1000 reward in Ocean City for information leading to the identity of the young woman being discovered.

Information was revealed in an article in the Ocean City Today newspaper by Detective Bill Eppell (he denied he had given any such information). He supposedly told the reporter, who stood by the story despite Eppell later denying it, that it was believed that Princess Doe had been a young woman that had worked at Harrison Hall, a hotel, in a housekeeping role during the summer of 1980 and 1981.

The Harrison Hotel, were police believed Princess Doe may have worked at one point.

Eppell also told the reporter that they believed she had lived in the North Division Street Area from 1979 to 1982. The article also stated that 6 witnesses had been found by detectives who had information which may lead to the true identity of Princess Doe. Publically, at least, nothing ever came from the Maryland lead.

Isotope Testing

In 2012 isotope testing of Princess Doe’s teeth and hair was analyzed to try to determine where she was from and possibly give them other clues. Results showed that Princess Doe was almost certainly born in the United States. Tests also revealed she had spent at least 10 months living in a midwestern state.

The sample that was taken from Princess Doe’s tooth also provided them with new information. Results indicated that Princess Doe had spent some time in Arizona, even noting it as a possible place of birth. The tests results also revealed she had spent a fair amount of time in Long Island. Investigators were also able to uncover that the clothing Princess Doe was wearing when her body was found were manufactured in the midwest. Police also revealed a new composite of the victim.

An earlier composition of how Princess Doe may have appeared.
The most recent composition of Princess Doe from 2015
Image released in 2012 of what Princess Doe may have looked like.

After releasing the new information to the press, detectives were given several new leads. A number of women came forward after seeing new images of the dress Princess Doe had worn. They stated that they had purchased the dress, or one very similar, from a store in Long Island. Unfortunately, the store in question was no longer in business.

The new facial composite also led to new hope of finding out the victims true identity. Investigators received calls giving possible names of missing young girls who looked similar to Princess Doe. After following up on the many tips given, detectives were unable to find a match to Princess Doe.

Arthur Kinlaw

In 1999 Lt. Stephen Speirs, the man now in charge of the Princess Doe investigation, received an intriguing phone call from the PD in New York. He was told that they had in there custody a pimp and his wife, Arthur and Donna Kinlaw. Arthur had been charged with with the murder of a woman and Donna was been questioned as an accomplice. Whilst under interigation Donna started to tell investigators of her husbands other crimes, one of which was the murder of a teenage girl in a New Jersey cemetery.

Speirs made his way to Rikers Island prison to talk to Donna Kinlaw. She told Speirs that her pimp husband preyed on bringing young teenage runaways into his business. Donna claimed that on this particular occasion the girl hadn’t been worth recruiting and that Arthur found her inexperience and naivety was making her next to useless as a prostitute. After attempts to sell the girl to other pimps failed, he brutally disposed of her. However question marks remained, Donna Kinlaw lacked any credibility, she was unable to provide a name and there was a chance she was just trying to reduce her sentence by seemingly been so helpful.

Arthur Kinlaw refused to speak to Lt Speirs for years, until finally in 2005 he sent a correspondence to the Attorney General’s Office admitting to the murder. Speirs went to speak to Kinlaw face to face to get further details.

Kinlaw told Speirs that he had indeed killed a young woman in a cemetery in New Jersey. Parts of his story seemed to add up to Kinlaw but there were also things Kinlaw said that didn’t. Lt Speirs was in a position were it was impossible to tell whether Kinlaw telling the truth , but getting certain details confused with other crimes he had committed, or if he was simply lying. What also failed to come from the conversation with Kinlaw was a name for the victim.

During the interview between the pair, Arthur Kinlaw did point out one thing his wife forgot to mention – that she was present during the murder. Speirs knew he would have to speak to Donna Kinlaw again to confirm her husbands story.

Donna Kinlaw was co-operative during her interview with Lt. Speirs, admitting that she was present during the actual murder. She gave Speirs several peices of information that he hoped would be useful, such as stating that Princess Doe was definitely from New York, possibly Long Island. The witness also agreed to provide a description to a sketch artist to come up with a new composite of the girl. Yet again though Donna had no name for the victim.

The sketch artist impression provided by Donna Kinlaw.

The fact that neither Arthur or Donna Kinlaw had a name for a girl that the pair had said worked for them for several weeks seemed odd to Lt. Speirs. The pair could also provide nothing in the way of any actual evidence that Arthur had been the person who murdered Princess Doe.

As Lt. Speirs himself said of the pairs story:

“I have no way of disputing it, but I also have no way of confirming it. That’s the problem”

Lt. Speirs

No charges relating to the murder of Princess Doe have ever been made.

Final Thoughts

Despite Princess Doe been discovered over 35 years ago I still believe that there is hope she can be identified, which in turn could leave to the capture of her killer. Likewise, no one that has worked on the case has ever given up hope that eventually the unknown identity of Princess Doe would be uncovered.

There have been so many improvements in DNA techniques over the last few years which have helped lead to discoveries such as identifying the serial killer The Original Night Stalker and finding the true identity of another famous Doe, Lyle Stevik. I see no reason the same cannot happen with Princess Doe.

If that does happen I have a strong feeling that the girl’s identity will lead to her killer. It’s only a personal opinion but the brutality with which the victim’s face was battered has always made me wonder if it was done as the killer believed knowing her identity would reveal his/hers.

If you have any information about the Princess Doe case then the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office can be contacted at the following:

Richard T. Burke, Prosecutor.

413 Second Street
Belvidere, New Jersey 07823
Phone: (908) 475-6275
Fax: (908) 475-6286

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