Davison woman, missing for decades, ID'ed as deceased in Texas - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Davison woman, missing for decades, ID'ed as deceased in Texas

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(02/11/14) - A woman missing from Mid-Michigan, for nearly 35 years, has been found, but not alive.

ABC12 first reported the story, about the positive identification of Paulette Jaster, about two weeks ago.  

She was 25 when she walked away from her parent's home, in Davison, in 1979.

Unbeknownst to anyone, until just very recently, Jaster had died less than a year after she disappeared and more than 1,300 miles away.

"In the file, it states it was a hit and run accident," says Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Sharon Derrick, with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, TX. "We know she was a pedestrian hit by a car."

Derrick thought she'd worked that particular Jane Doe case, dating back to March of 1980, as much as she could. Just last month, she got an email from the public, from a woman in the area, suggesting the long unidentified female could be Jaster.

And as if it was finally meant to be, Derrick was able to make a positive identification.

"This was pure shoe leather and tracking down all the evidence in the case," she says. "We had fingerprints for this young woman, who turns out to be Paulette, but there were no fingerprints on file for Paulette. There were no dental X-rays for either Paulette or our unidentified woman, so there was nothing to back up the dental charting."

Derrick says Jaster's facial features, three freckles especially, were what really got them to where they needed to be.

"Our photos of her, and of Paulette, are almost identical and in a different situation, where this was a current case, we likely would have made a visual identification of her," Derrick says.

Michigan State Police worked with Derrick and with Jaster's family. Derrick says to have such good cooperation, all around, helped.

"It's a bittersweet thing, but it's been a blessing because it answers so many questions," says Peg Sperlich, Jaster's oldest sister, who now lives in South Dakota.

Sperlich says Jaster was a bit of a free spirit and it wasn't unusual for her to come and go. 

After celebrating their mother's birthday in 1979, Jaster left again and didn't leave a note. They got more worried as the months went by. They reported her missing.

"Mom was diligent," Sperlich says. "She was a hound dog."

Sperlich says the search took their family across the country.

"Through the years, you wonder 'why wouldn't she contact us?' Knowing the truth now has been a blessing," she says. "The man who was driving, we know, was charged. We don't know the outcome of the charges, but we know he's dead already and was dead within 10 years."

Their parents both passed away before knowing what had happened.

"I was thankful that we found her," Sperlich says. "Immediately all those questions and concerns and fears for what she must be going through all these years were gone."

The marker on Jaster's Texas gravesite will be updated with her name. Her family plans to have a memorial for her.

The person who contacted Derrick has not been named publicly. 

"There will be a time when I was ask, 'Can we meet you?' and express our deep thanks," Sperlich said.

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