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Pregnant woman found dead in basement three decades ago finally identified by father’s DNA

Tabetha Murlin’s body was discovered in a basement in Fort Wayne, Indiana in May 1992, but she went unnamed until this year (Allen County Coroner’s Office)
Tabetha Murlin’s body was discovered in a basement in Fort Wayne, Indiana in May 1992, but she went unnamed until this year (Allen County Coroner’s Office)

Investigators in Indiana have finally been able to give a Jane Doe her name back, nearly 32 years after she was found dead, thanks to advances in DNA testing technology.

Tabetha Ann Murlin’s badly decomposed body was discovered in a basement in Fort Wayne in May 1992. She was buried a week later as a Mary Jane Doe.

Murlin, 23, was around 26 weeks pregnant when she died, but when her body was found police struggled to find any details on her and the case went cold.

Then in 2016, a National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) case was created and the following year the body was exhumed.

Over the next few years, forensic experts carried out various tests and scans on her femur and her teeth. For a while, it looked like the case might go cold again, but then private company IGGnite DNA stepped in to help.

Using genealogy testing, they were able to link Murlin’s DNA to a man they believed to be her biological father, as well as her deceased mother and two aunts. In January, a DNA swab from Robert Bowers confirmed him as Murlin’s dad.

One of the aunts, who had adopted Murlin, was able to identify the deceased as Tabetha Slain, who had married a man called Jerry Murlin in 1987. The pair separated two years later.

Police said at a news conference on Thursday that they did not believe Murlin’s ex-husband to be a suspect in her death at this time.

While police are still trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death over three decades ago, Allen County Coroner John Brandenberger told reporters that it was “an exciting day” for Murlin to finally be identified.

Fort Wayne Police Detective Brian Martin added that the work carried out to reach this point had been “amazing”.

“It obviously gives us hope in all the other missing person cases, unidentified cases and cold case homicides,” Martin added.

Anyone with further information on Murlin’s case is being asked to reach out to authorities at 260-427-1201 for the Fort Wayne Police Detective Bureau; Fort Wayne CrimeStoppers at 260-436-7867; or to report anonymously by using the P3Tips mobile app.