Authorities seek public's help identifying body found in Lake Michigan in 1988

Authorities are asking for the public's help identifying a body that was recovered 35 years ago from Lake Michigan.

The body washed ashore in Michigan – on the New Buffalo breakwater of Lake Michigan – on April 8, 1988.

The body was exhumed on November 9, 2021, to collect a DNA sample for entry into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and for forensic genetic genealogy analysis. Dental records were also compared to known missing persons in an effort to determine the identity of the individual.

In addition, the body was re-examined using advanced forensic methods which revealed the person was a Black female, contradicting the previous belief that she was a white woman.


The body is described as that of a middle-aged woman, estimated to be between 40 and 60 years old, standing approximately 5-foot-5 inches tall, and weighing around 175 pounds. She had brown hair and brown eyes, and it is believed that she wore a braided wig or extensions that were forcibly removed.

Clothing found on the body consisted of men's size 38 denim blue jeans with a wide double-ring type, striped cloth belt. Underneath the jeans, she was wearing red, white, and blue shorts along with full-length pantyhose. No top was present, but she was wearing a sandy-colored front-clasped, heavy-duty bra.

Black zippered ankle boots were also found on the body. It was not noted whether socks or underwear were found on the body, police said.

Image 1 of 4


During the initial autopsy, it was discovered the individual had undergone a hysterectomy, as her uterus, bilateral tubes, and ovaries were missing. There was also a singular scar stretching from her pelvis to her navel. No other identifying marks or tattoos were observed, police said.

A forensic dental examination revealed a high standard of dental health, suggesting the individual likely did not smoke or consume excessive amounts of alcohol. The examining doctor believes the individual may have come from an upper socioeconomic group due to her having a porcelain bridge replacing a front tooth. This type of dental work was considered experimental at the time, police said.

It is possible the body floated from the Chicago area or northwest Indiana, police said.

Authorities are urging anyone with information to contact Michigan State Police at 269-683-4411, or call the New Buffalo Police Department at 269-469-1500.