Murder of Deanna Criswell
Portrait of Deanna Criswell
Deanna Lee Criswell
September 20, 1971
Spokane, Washington, United States
|Died||November 1987 (aged 16)|
Marana, Arizona, United States
|Cause of death||Homicide by firearm|
|Body discovered||November 25, 1987|
|Resting place||Pima County Cemetery, Tucson, Arizona|
|Other names||"Jane Doe 19"|
|Known for||Murder victim|
Deanna Lee Criswell (officially known as "Jane Doe 19" and informally as the "Pima County Jane Doe" while she was unidentified) (September 20, 1971 - c. November 1987) was an American girl from Spokane and Seattle, Washington, who was known for being identified more than 27 years after she had been murdered at age sixteen. Her body was found on November 25, 1987 in Marana, Arizona near Tucson; she had been shot to death. The Marana Police Department announced her identification on February 11, 2015, aided by the sophisticated technology of forensic facial reconstruction and DNA analysis, and by websites set up by amateurs to help identify missing and unidentified persons.
After Criswell's parents divorced, family members became estranged, and she had periods of running away from home. She was never officially reported as missing. But in 2014, her aunt and uncle began to look for Criswell, whom they had seen only as a baby. They began to search newly available online databases, and focused on unidentified persons in Arizona after learning that their niece had called her sister from Tucson in late 1987. They came across "Pima County Jane Doe"'s profile online at the Doe Network. They believed the young woman's image, from a forensic facial reconstruction prepared by the FBI in 2010, resembled their niece. They contacted law enforcement, who obtained DNA from family members and were able to confirm the match.
Authorities strongly suspected that William Ross Knight was the killer; Criswell had been involved with him when she went to Tucson. He had died in 2005 of illness in prison, where he had been sentenced on robbery charges. He had used a .22 caliber pistol in a robbery, the same size of the gun that killed Criswell.
Early life, disappearance and discovery
Deanna Lee Criswell was born in 1971 and grew up with her family in Spokane, Washington. She had a sister Debbie who was fourteen years older. Their parents divorced when Deanna was three years old. Her father Jerry Criswell was a trucker and her mother, who had custody of Deanna, worked two jobs to support her family. A year after their parents divorced, Debbie left home at the age of 18.
While growing up, Deanna often spent time with her maternal grandfather when her mother was away. Following his death, she became a "rebellious teen". She became involved with a questionable group of older peers. Criswell later moved to Seattle, where she lived with her father. Her behavior improved, but when she was about age 15, she began to act out again. She returned by bus to Spokane to live with her mother again.
Six months before her death, Criswell at age 15 ran away from home and lived on the streets. She occasionally called her father but was estranged from her mother. She began a relationship with 36-year-old William "Bill" Ross Knight. After he relocated to Tucson, Arizona, he sent Criswell a bus ticket in September 1987 so that she could join him. She did not call her father after reaching Tucson, but did call her older sister Debbie Renn from the city.
Her father was not immediately concerned when he didn't hear from her, as he believed that she was able to "take care of herself." By Christmas, with no word, he attempted to file a missing person report, but local officials declined to cooperate due to Criswell's history of running away.
Criswell's body was discovered by a homeless man on November 25, 1987, in a culvert along Interstate 10 in Marana, Pima County, Arizona. The man walked to the local police station to report the find. Police noted tire tracks at the scene, indicating the woman had been killed at another location and deposited out of sight after death.
Her remains were transported to the Pima County Medical Examiner for an autopsy, for determination of cause of death and a full description of her body. It was determined she had been dead about two weeks. It was discovered the victim had recently had sex, but there was no evidence of rape.
She was estimated to have been between seventeen and twenty-one years of age, at a height of around five feet, three inches, and a weight of 138 pounds. She was thought to be European American, or a Hispanic or Native American with fair skin. Her brown hair was determined to be short and curly. Her eye color could not be determined, as the body had decomposed. The body had not distinctive scars, birthmarks or tattoos. She did have unusual and large upper front teeth, with a gap between the center two on top. Her teeth had been well cared for, with adequate dental care.
She was wearing several layers of clothing, including a denim jacket with its sleeves rolled, a white jacket, gray sweater, a multicolored flannel shirt, black jeans, white shoes and purple underwear. Police said that the layers of clothing suggested that she was a runaway or perhaps a migrant. A purple sweater had been placed over her face. Law enforcement said that indicated her killer knew her during life and felt remorse, often a characteristic of crimes of passion. She was shot five times with a .22 caliber firearm. Criswell suffered four wounds to the torso and one to the neck at close range.
The Manara Police Department of Tucson released details of the case, but was unable to identify the victim. Several missing females were compared to this victim, but many were excluded based on her dental characteristics. Fingerprints were also used for comparison. After the investigation stalled, the young woman, still unidentified, was buried in 1989 in the Pima County Cemetery.
The homeless man who reported her was quickly eliminated as a suspect. In 1988 a person of interest was also eliminated as a suspect. Benjamin Batson was stopped by police for a traffic violation near the location where the body was found. He was a convicted sex offender who had been seen with an unknown teenage girl. The police searched his vehicle, but no trace evidence of Criswell was found in it.
Influence of advances in DNA analysis and forensic facial reconstruction
Because of advances in technology for DNA analysis and other forensic tests, the cold case was eventually reopened in 2009. The victim's body was exhumed to obtain additional forensic evidence, including DNA. The police still had no suspects.
At their labs at Quantico, Virginia, the FBI completed a forensic facial reconstruction of the victim in 2010, after her exhumation. Such images were publicized so that someone who knew the young woman in life could recognize her. Posters were distributed in Arizona with this image. Her DNA was also processed by the agency to establish a profile.
In 2011, further advances in technology enabled a partial DNA profile of a potential perpetrator to be generated from evidence collected from the victim's body at the crime scene. The profile matched that of William "Bill" Ross Knight, who had become known in the 1980s for spree robberies. In 1987 he was known to have used a .22 caliber pistol in one robbery, which was the same caliber used in Criswell's homicide. He was arrested about nine days before Criswell's body was found and was prosecuted for robbery.
However, Knight had died in 2005 due to liver complications, while serving time in prison on robbery charges. Although he was identified as a suspect, the victim who had been shot with a gun of the same caliber that he used had DNA that did not match any individual in the CODIS database. Investigators feared that Knight's death left them with a blank wall, as they could not question him to identify his potential victim, and of course could not prosecute him. He was never charged with Criswell's homicide.
Criswell's case was one in which identification was aided by people using amateur online networks. Since the beginning of the 21st century, a number of websites and organizations have been established that post material about missing or unidentified persons, to engage the power of crowd sourcing. After long being estranged from Criswell's father, in 2014, her paternal aunt and uncle, Ellen and Donald Criswell, reconciled with him. When they learned that Deanna had not been heard from in decades and was never officially reported missing, they began to search online databases, after their hope dwindled that their niece was still alive. Although her father had tried to report her as missing in 1987, police did not accept the case because of her history of running away from each parent.
Her family had thought she would "contact them when she wanted to." Criswell was found to have called her older sister Debbie Renn once after arriving in Tucson, but she had not called either of her parents. After learning from the father that Criswell had reached Tucson, her aunt and uncle started searching databases for unidentified persons in Arizona cases.
Some five to ten months before February 2015, the couple discovered the "Pima County Jane Doe" case and studied the facial reconstruction on The Doe Network. Criswell's father had given them a photo of Deanna as a teenager, and the couple thought the image of the reconstruction resembled their niece, including the space between her two top teeth. Other characteristics, such as the height and weight approximation, were also similar. After the pair contacted Pima County law enforcement, their staff took DNA samples from Criswell's parents to compare to the profile of the remains.
The match to Deanna Lee Criswell was announced on February 11, 2015, more than 27 years after her death. Her family decided to leave her buried in Pima County. In March 2015, Jerry, Donald and another of their brothers planned to gather at the cemetery, to replace the gravestone for "Jane Doe 19" with one for "Deanna Lee Criswell."
- List of solved missing persons cases
- Murder of Tammy Alexander, who was unidentified for 35 years
- Murder of Anjelica Castillo, who was unidentified for 22 years
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