Global Economy

published : 2023-11-26

Case of missing Tennessee woman, whose head was found 30 years ago, still haunts family: ‘We need answers’

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information on the death of Susan Lund, a mother of three

A photo of Laurah Norton, the author and researcher, holding a copy of her book 'Lay Them to Rest'. Image taken with a Nikon D850.

Susan Lund disappeared on Dec. 24, 1992. Remains of a woman were found on Jan. 27, 1993. 'Ina Jane Doe' was confirmed to be Susan Lund in 2022.

'Her daughter Crystal was recently granted a family awareness grant from the nonprofit Season of Justice,' author Laurah Norton told Fox News Digital.

'There’s a $10,000 reward that doesn’t expire,' she shared. 'We’re hoping that as more people hear about her case, someone who may have information will come forward. She has been identified, but her family still wants answers.'

Norton, a writer and researcher, is co-creator of 'The Fall Line,' a podcast that focuses on unsolved cold cases in the South. Her new book, 'Lay Them to Rest,' explores how forensic science is used to identify John and Jane Does across the country. It also chronicles Lund's case.

'When I first looked at her case, it was clear that a lot of work had been done,' Norton explained. 'But something was still missing. I wanted to learn how we could get this story out in the hopes that it would lead to answers… This was a 25-year-old mother of three who had gone to the grocery store and never came home. It was a really sad and shocking series of events. Her sisters had looked for her… There were so many unanswered questions.'

In February 2021, University of New Hampshire anthropologist Dr. Amy Michael contacted the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. According to a news release from Redgrave Research Forensic Services in Massachusetts, she offered to reexamine the case.

According to Season of Justice, Michael worked with Norton, and the women found that features of the original sketch of Ina Jane Doe may have been exaggerated. Based on their research, they commissioned a more accurate forensic sketch.

An aerial view of Clarksville, Tennessee, where Susan Lund disappeared. The cityscape shows billboards placed by Crystal, Lund's daughter, raising awareness about her mother's case. Image taken with a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone.

'Dr. Michael, one of my best friends, was there from the very beginning,' Norton explained. 'She and I wanted to work on this case together from the start… We have forensic art that was widely circulated. And Ina Jane Doe was depicted with noticeable characteristics. It was so unique that if someone recognized it, they would’ve reached out.'

'I learned that skeletal analysis was a game changer, which can result in new, updated forensic art,' Norton shared. 'There is nothing wrong with having new eyes on a cold case.'

Samples taken from the remains were also used by investigators to create a DNA profile. That profile was then sent to the forensic genealogy team. One of Lund’s siblings provided a DNA sample for comparison. In March 2022, it was confirmed that Ina Jane Doe was Lund.

'I felt so many emotions when she was finally identified,' said Norton. 'I was grateful. And of course, I was sad that this crime had occurred. But there were still so many questions that needed answering. This was only one part of the equation.'

According to reports, Clarksville police searched for Lund, but her missing person’s case was closed around August 1993. While Ina Jane Doe’s head was found 175 miles north of Clarksville, no connection was made between the two cases at the time.

Lund’s three children, who were all under 6 at the time, had long wondered what happened to their mother. According to reports at the time of Lund’s disappearance, the stay-at-home mom had wanted to make a pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner.

'Crystal was only 4 when her mother disappeared,' Norton shared. 'And like Sue, Crystal is a huge animal lover. [Sue] had dreams of eventually becoming a vet tech or a veterinarian. She married her high school sweetheart and had three kids, so she was going to need to wait for them to get a little bit older before she pursued that dream. But she always had a big interest in rescuing animals. Her sister said that she would make friends with a mean dog. And if relatives went away on vacation, it was Sue who stayed to help take care of their animals.'

A forensic artist working on creating a new sketch of Susan Lund based on updated information. Image taken with a Canon EOS R5.

Today, Lund’s family is just as determined to find out who killed the beloved matriarch. Norton said she’s hopeful that in her lifetime, we’ll find out what happened to Lund.

'One thing I’ve learned from working in this field is that you should always have hope,' said Norton. 'The worst thing you can do is say, ‘This will never happen.' And I think the identification of Lund proves that. Hope is the most important thing you can have in any case, especially a cold one. You just need all the facts presented to the right person for the pieces of a puzzle to come together.'

'I am hopeful that this case will be solved,' Norton shared. 'I am also hopeful that someone in Clarksville will have one piece of information, which will lead to someone else having another piece of information. I’m hopeful that the people of Clarksville will see Susan’s photo and maybe something will be sparked in their memories.'

Norton believes her book will give other families hope that their cold cases can be revisited today, leading to new answers. She pointed out that more than ever, podcasters and other digital creators have used platforms like Instagram and TikTok to raise awareness of other cases that have impacted their towns.

'Susan Lund’s family, just like all families in similar circumstances, deserve to know what happened – we need answers,' Norton added.

Anyone with information can contact the Sheriff's Office (618-244-8004) or the Jefferson County Crimestoppers (618) 242-TIPS). The Associated Press contributed to this report.