The following is part of a weekly series on unsolved homicides and suspected homicide cases in Fayette County and the surrounding area.
State police are searching for answers to questions about the identity of a woman killed nearly 27 years ago in a late night tragic traffic accident.
State police Trooper John F. Marshall, who oversees the cold case investigations at the state police station in Uniontown, said the woman may have been hitchhiking when a truck driver named Joseph Daniel Richards picked her up. Marshall said Richards of East Anollee, Ga., was a driver for Wilkinson Trucking of Commerce, Ga.
Marshall said around 4:30 a.m. May 2, 1986, Richards lost control of his truck at a Y intersection on Route 119 that leads to Shoaf in Georges Township. Marshall said the driver sustained fatal injuries and died soon after the accident.
Marshall said police and emergency responders were unaware that Richards had a passenger.
“As a tow truck comes to roll this rig back onto its wheels, they locate a white female underneath the trailer part,” he said.”The body was hidden. No one knew it was there until they rolled it back.”
Marshall said the woman was killed by trauma from the accident.
“Our best estimate was that she was thrown once the truck started rolling,” he said.
Marshall said the woman did not have much of anything beyond a key chain that would offer police any clues as to her identity. He said the woman had little more than a pack of cigarettes and the clothes on her back. Police didn’t find any baggage or purse.
“That’s all we really have on this,” he said.
Marshall said he hopes someone will come forward to identify the woman’s photograph and/or her keychain.
“In this case, there is no foul play. We are trying to identify this white female and to bring her home to her family,” Marshall said.
Marshall said police went above and beyond trying to find someone who might know this woman.
“Troopers did a sketch of her,” Marshall said. “What the patrol officer did way back when was to take this sketch and he traveled from west to east on turnpike stopping at every truck stop trying to identify Mr. Richards, if he was there, and this white female.”
Marshall said police contacted Richards’ family, but they didn’t know anything about the woman. He said police searched for missing persons out of Pennsylvania and Georgia. Marshall said police checked for any missing persons fitting the woman’s description along major routes like Interstate 95 – everything coming and going into Pennsylvania.
“Throughout the years, numerous tips have come in asking if this is my daughter or my wife – none of them panned out,” he said.
Marshall said though the case has grown cold, police are in the process of putting her dental records and her DNA into a national database that would offer law enforcement agents anywhere information about this woman. Marshall said he hopes that someday these details may trigger a memory from someone who knows the woman’s identity.
“Every time we review it, I’ll send a teletype out, go into the missing persons’ files and look for any similarities,” he said.