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Jane Doe Westby.jpg

Authorities are looking for new information about this woman, who was found dead in rural Vernon County in 1984.

VIROQUA — Authorities are asking people to think back 28 years, when "Jane Doe" was murdered.

Did you lose touch with a woman who was a friend or neighbor during May 1984?

She was between 50 and 63 years old, white, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 150 pounds, with brown graying hair and blue eyes.

She was found bludgeoned to death along a rural Vernon County road in the middle of the night. The killer took no effort to conceal the body, but he cut off the woman's hands, which have never been found, and tore the labels from her clothing.

She was never identified, and after nearly three decades, investigators have run out of leads.

Now the Vernon County Sheriff's Department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice are hoping to spark new interest in the case.

"My hope is that somebody will see this and recognize her," Sheriff John Spears said. "With the media coverage today, with Facebook and Twitter and all the other things that are out there ... somebody is going to look at the picture and say, 'That was my neighbor 30 years ago,' or 'That lady frequented our store.' She has a past, she has a history. It's just finding it."

The State Crime Laboratory is taking another look at the forensic evidence, which includes the woman's clothing and dentures.

Retired Deputy Sheriff Jim Hanson was the first deputy on the scene when the body was found. Police believe she died before she was dumped on Old Line Road near Westby.

A witness saw a man driving a two-door yellow car in the area.

It's unlikely she was a Vernon County resident, authorities said. But they believe she may have lived within 100 miles of where she was dumped.

The killing was big news at the time. But investigators are targeting southeast Minnesota in their renewed effort to publicize the case. Coverage of the case in the 1980s may not have been widespread there.

Authorities tracked more than 400 leads in the years after the woman was found, Hanson said. Her profile was matched against "every missing female in the age group early 50s to 63 internationally and did not surface."

"This could be a case of some ancestor gets curious about 'I never had a good explanation for grandma or my great aunt or some relative,' you know and 'I wonder what happened?'" Hanson said. "It's 28 years later — that might be the type of tip or lead in this case that might just break it a little bit open."

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