The 1946 Oak Grove Jane Doe

By Naptime Nancy

On the evening of Friday, April 12th, 1946, three people were walking along the Clackamas River in the Portland suburb of Oak Grove when they discovered a bound burlap sack floating in the water. Assuming the sack was filled with kittens that some cruel person had discarded, they pulled the sack out of the water. What they found would become one of the most notorious cold cases in Oregon’s history. Cutting through the tape, rope, telephone wire and burlap, they discovered the torso of a woman, along with her clothing. The sleeves were missing from the sweater that was wrapped with the Oak Grove Jane Doe’s torso, potentially indicating that the woman’s arms were severed while wearing the sweater. Her head was wrapped in newspaper, multiple issues of The Oregonian newspaper, one dated from 1944, and then covered in green fabric.

The Lake Oswego Railroad bridge connects Lake Oswego and Oak Grove, Oregon. This is one of the locations law enforcement believe part the Oak Grove Jane Doe’s body was dumped. (Wikipedia)

In the months to follow, the woman’s right thigh and arms would be found floating, then her left thigh in the Clackamas River, and finally her head in late October. The woman is believed to be approximately 40-50 years old, 5’2”-5’4” in height, 125-150 lbs with dentures and graying brown hair. Authorities determined that the woman died from blunt force trauma. Trails of burlap near the various locations where her severed body parts were found led Oregon State Police and Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department to believe the Jane Doe had been disposed of in various locations along the Willamette and Clackamas rivers.

Photos of the chicken feed and rabbit pellets
burlap sacks used to wrap the Oak Grove Jane Doe. (Wikipedia)

Many people wrote to authorities worried that the woman’s remains were their mother, sister, cousin, etc., who had gone missing. Sadly, there has never been a confirmed match and DNA is not an option with evidence this old. There has also never been any suspects named by authorities. However, the podcast Most Notorious covers a compelling theory that authors JD Chandler and Theresa Griffin Kennedy wrote about in their book, Murder and Scandal in Prohibition Portland. The podcast Good Nightmares also features an episode about the Oak Grove Jane Doe. Check them all out!

Many people wrote to authorities hoping that their missing mother, sister, cousin, etc., could be the Oak Grove Jane Doe. Sadly, no identification has ever been made. The murderer was dubbed The Wisdom Light Killer, but a suspect has ever been named and DNA was not able to be extracted. It is unclear if and when the last time DNA extraction was attempted for this particular case though. This April will mark the 73rd anniversary of the first gruesome discovery of the Oak Grove Jane Doe. If you or anyone you know has any information that has been passed down from a death bed confession or even a rumor you’ve heard, please pass the information along to Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department at (503)-723-4949 or fill out the Tip Sheet on their website.



Slabtown Chronicles

Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department

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