On April 8, 1981, a group of hunters driving through the Arizona desert discovered the remains of a human body near a tree under a tattered jacket caught in the branches. After medical examiners conducted an autopsy, it was deduced that the remains were of a young woman between the ages of 18 and 22 who was strangled to death. After 34 long years, investigators finally discovered the true identity of this Jane Doe. Her name was Brenda Marie Gerow.
Even though excessive sun exposure resulted in significant decomposition, fingerprints and dental records were obtained in hopes of putting a name to the victim of this heinous crime. Sadly, no missing person cases were a match, and investigators hit a major wall. Fortunately, in 2012, the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children came to the aid of the investigation by sponsoring a digital facial reconstruction which provided a fairly accurate image of the victim’s facial features prior to decomposition.
Subsequently, while investigators were unable to identify Jane Doe for 34 years, police were simultaneously investigating and compiling a case against a murderer named John Kalhauser. He was responsible for the murder of his wife and a 52-year-old man, as well as numerous other violent offenses dating back to 1979.
Investigators discovered a photograph of a woman with blonde hair in his possession. Fast forward to 2014, the investigating team put two and two together and matched the lady in the photograph with Jane Doe. After announcing and circulating the image in public, Bill Gerow Junior, on December 23, 2014, confirmed his suspicion that the woman in the photograph may have been his sister.
As it turns out, Bill Gerow Junior revealed that his sister departed from their home in 1980 with John Kalhauser, whom she met and began dating. Oblivious to his past, she left the state with her boyfriend and was last in contact with her brother a few weeks after leaving and moving to New Mexico. That phone call marked the last time Bill Gerow Junior ever spoke to his sister.
After decades, investigators were finally able to confirm to the public on September 28, 2015, that the Jane Doe found dead in the Arizona desert was indeed Brenda Gerow. In 1981, the coroner concluded that Brenda’s body was covered in scratches and wounds which were a likely result of her running through a thick and dangerously sharp bush. This paints a devastating picture of how desperate she was to escape and survive the attack.
Severely beaten, sexually assaulted, and killed, Brenda Gerow was the unfortunate victim of a vicious murderer who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence in Massachusetts. The Gerow family cremated Brenda’s remains and have finally laid their beloved daughter and sister to rest.
As of 2017, investigators are still compiling as much information and proof as they can to convict John Kalhauser for the murder of Brenda Gerow and put him where he belongs – in prison for the rest of his life.