BLACK RIVER FALLS — Authorities now know the identity of a homicide victim whose body was discovered in a remote part of Jackson County nearly a quarter century ago.
Julia Baez of the Milwaukee area was last seen in June 1990 and her body was uncovered four months later in two shallow graves in the town of Brockway. The case went cold until recently when DNA from her children matched what was entered into a national database in hopes of getting a lead in the case.
“The DNA is a very important part of this case,” Jackson County Sheriff Duane Waldera said in a news conference Monday. “We are very happy with how this all took place.”
The case is now considered a homicide investigation involving Milwaukee police, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and state investigators. It’s unclear whether Baez was killed in Jackson County or elsewhere, but the ongoing investigation will look to uncover more leads.
Authorities didn’t disclose much information about Baez or her life before her disappearance, citing the homicide investigation. However, her family released a statement thanking law enforcement and other Jackson County officials for giving her a resting place.
“We thank you all for finally giving our family closure,” the statement read, while also asking for privacy. “We have waited for so long.”
Baez’s dismembered and decapitated body was discovered in October 1990 when a person hunting mushrooms came across it in plastic bags near the Bauer and Airport road areas, and authorities never were able to generate a possible sketch because her skull was never recovered.
Baez was buried in Riverside Cemetery with a Jane Doe-marked gravestone until last year when her body was exhumed to assist with further forensic testing and DNA profiling.
That work with a university science center that assists with DNA technology pushed the case forward and led to Milwaukee police cross-referencing DNA from her children in the national database in hopes of finding a lead in what was their long-unsolved missing persons case.
“To put a name to Jane Doe was pretty awesome,” said an emotional BRF Fire Chief Steve Schreiber, who was a deputy coroner in 1990 when the body was discovered and who has tended to the grave over the past 25 years. “I adopted her.
“I’m just glad we got a name to Jane Doe, and she gets to go home to her family now.”
Baez’s body has been returned to Jackson County, where the coroner’s office will assist with returning it to her family.
Anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department at 715-284-5357 and ask to speak with a detective.
In another Jackson County cold case, the sheriff’s department recently released two sketches of what they believe a man may have looked like more than 30 years ago when his body was discovered in a remote area of the county.
Investigators hope the sketch and the victim’s DNA profile and dental records, which are now available in a nationwide missing-persons database, will be a key to solving the case that began when loggers discovered a body in August 1978 in the town of Knapp.