Identified! OH - Dobbstown, 'Belle in the Well' WhtFem UP6259, 30-60, in cistern, Apr'81 - Louise Petersen

Blurgle

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Would there be any document or record keeping of some sort to find out from when checks weren't cashed out, apart from the checks themselves, or is that too much to hope for?

The Sheriff said the Social Security Administration wasn't legally empowered to comply with a subpoena requesting that information until a death certificate had been issued, and of course a death certificate couldn't legally be issued until her identity was confirmed. He said something like, "and now we have that, and will be subpoenaing records" at one point.

They should eventually find out more about her now that they have that.

Also, if she and her husband were divorced as far back as '67 it doesn't sound like he's a credible suspect. I wonder if she remarried and they haven't yet found the documentation.
 

PastTense

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"For 38 years, the case of the “Belle in the Well” haunted Bill Nenni, an investigator for the Lawrence County, Ohio, coroner’s office. He had barely started his job when she was found in 1981—strangled and hidden inside a water cistern in rural Ohio. She was so badly decomposed as to be unrecognizable. For 38 years, Nenni kept coming back to Belle, as he referred to her, even as the sheriff’s-office investigators who worked the case retired one by one, even as he himself officially retired. This year, something finally came of his efforts.

This morning, the coroner’s office announced the real name of the Belle in the Well: Louise Virginia Peterson Flesher, born on June 16, 1915, in West Virginia. She was finally identified through her DNA and genealogy by a nonprofit, the DNA Doe Project, that Nenni had contacted about the case. The nonprofit’s volunteers used the same technique that led to the arrest of the Golden State Killer suspect last spring.

But Nenni’s quest to identify the nameless woman through DNA and genealogy began long before the Golden State Killer case popularized the idea. Back in 2014, he proposed the strategy to Elizabeth Murray, a forensic anthropologist, who put Belle’s case into the National Missing and Identified Persons System."

She Was Found Strangled in a Well, and Now She Has a Name
 

weegee

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Welcome to Websleuths, weegee!

Wonderful research. Such a sad story.
Thank you, I have read the boards for a while and it’s amazing the work you guys put in to help the victims and does. This story just seems so sad. One thought that did cross my mind was that ww2 was going on at that time, could her husband have been drafted away to serve and she may have struggled with three young kids, which had a knock on effect? Times were hard then. Pure speculation on my part.
 

daikon.radish

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Does anyone know what her child died of in 1959?
Not for sure, but as @weegee discovered, the child was in an institution for disabled children so I guess something to do with that. So crushing. :(

I wonder if Louise was generally separated from her family by the time she and her husband divorced (seeing as he remarried in 1967), but that’s still a good 10-15 years until she disappeared. If there were family photos I can understand if the daughters left them behind when they moved out of home (work/marriage) and then if their father remarried and mother vanished I can understand if they felt abandoned and didn’t care to keep any of them.

If the remaining daughters are 83 and 79, then they were born in the late 1930s-early 1940s. By 1967 they were probably already out of home. Hmm! I wonder too if someone went through Louise’s things after a certain point and tossed everything? Even the kindest landlord wouldn’t leave a house just sitting there full of the previous tenant’s stuff.
 

landis

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Hate to kinda be a bit of a party pooper here, but just a gentle reminder that sleuthing family is against TOS. Just making sure posts are not deleted, or that no one gets time-outs, etc.

Rules - Etiquette & Information

I am certain more info and pieces of Louise's story will be released in time, though ;)

Sorry, won't happen again.
 

weegee

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Hate to kinda be a bit of a party pooper here, but just a gentle reminder that sleuthing family is against TOS. Just making sure posts are not deleted, or that no one gets time-outs, etc.

Rules - Etiquette & Information

I am certain more info and pieces of Louise's story will be released in time, though ;)
Apologies. I’m new to the community. Most of the information was from the press conference. Would never want to invade anyone’s privacy, I was just trying to build a timeline and possible locations, will be more sensitive in future, thank you for the reminder. You can get a bit swept up in this when interested in a case.
 

Tuck

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I sent a message to Betty's daughter Judy who runs the website for her missing mother. I asked her to create a NamUs profile for her mother to help with identification. I did not mention your theory because Betty went missing in 1977 and the earliest date of death for the victim is 1979. That's a two year gap so I don't think it's possible.

*modsnip/ email removed*

I hope she takes my advice. It's possible Betty has already been found but due to no profile nobody has made the connection.

Have you been able to contact them?
 

b741ma

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They also mentioned that the only picture they had of Louise was one from her highschool graduation and she died when she was 65! That means neither of her living daughters could find or had any pictures of their mother left.

I’m really hoping someone that knew Louise comes forward with later pictures, sort of like Mary Silvani.

I think Louise probably has more pictures of her than Silvani as she had close family and Silvani didn't. I'm sure we'll see some more photos pf Louis sometime.
 

DSCrime

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Another great job by DNA Doe Project!

This news report has video of the area around where Louise Virginia Peterson Flesher's remains were found & the reporter speaks to a local:

Woman known as 'belle in the well' has ties to Parkersburg

"The southern hills of Lawrence County, Ohio have long been home to a legend.

Sharon Mayberry has lived near the Willow Wood area for over 50 years. She first heard about the story of the 'belle in the well' when she moved there and over the years she has often wondered about her.

As the story goes, in April 1981, a woman was found in a well just down the road. Her cause of death was strangulation. Investigators estimate that her body was in the well for about one to two years. A cinder block was tied around her neck with a rope to weigh her down.

38 years later, the Lawrence County Coroners Office had a press conference Monday finally revealing her identity. Her name was Louise Virginia Peterson Flesher. She was born in 1915 in West Virginia. At some point, the woman moved to Wyoming where she went to high school and had a family. Her husband’s name was Donald Benjamin Flesher. She had three daughters. Two are still living. By 1944, she returned to West Virginia and lived in Parkersburg.

It was a long and winding road to finally identify this Jane Doe. In 2017, the Lawrence County Coroners Office teamed up with the DNA Doe Project. They used DNA from her tooth and genealogy to be able to find her youngest daughter.

County Coroner Ben Mack says the mystery surrounding her identity wouldn't have been solved without this cutting-edge technology.

According to representatives from the DNA Doe Project, the identification effort took thousands of hours, more than 30 volunteers helped and they reviewed over 40,000 family trees.

At this point, the sheriff says there are no suspects. They ask anyone who might have known something about this crime to reach out to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office."
 
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