Missing and Forgotten: The search for Chelsea Jane Doe's identity

CHELSEA, Mass. — Nearly 20 years ago, Chelsea police made a disturbing discovery in the back of a parking lot at the Chelsea Soldier’s Home — the mutilated, headless body of a young woman.

Now known as Chelsea Jane Doe, her killer has been caught, but she has never been identified.

Child advocates suspect she may have been a former foster kid and child sex trafficking victim.

While Chelsea Jane Doe may have fallen through the cracks in life, Boston 25’s Bob Ward spoke with police who are now trying to give her her name back in death.

On Nov. 13, 2000, Chelsea Police Chief Kyes was called to the Soldiers’ Home. Beneath a blanket, police found the young woman’s body. The killer had dismembered her body, cutting off her hands, feet and head.

“In 31 years of my career, I've never seen anything like that,” said Kyes.

It would be four years before her missing head, hands and feet would be found — buried at Nahant Beach inside plastic containers.

Police work led detectives to Eugene McCollom, who told investigators Jane Doe was a prostitute he had picked up in Boston’s Theater District and brought back to his tiny room at the Lynn YMCA.

He told police he killed her after a dispute over money.

“He was claiming self defense. He was claiming the victim in this case got a hold of a knife that he had in the room and tried to attack him,” said Kyes. “He gave some account that he's living in a small room. He had to dispose of the body so in his own wisdom decided the only way (he) could do that was to take her out in pieces.”

McCollom was convicted for killing and beheading a Boston man — as well as for the murder of Chelsea Jane Doe.

He has also been a possible suspect in other murders in the area.

McCollom is now in prison, but before he was locked up, he gave detectives information that could help identify his victim.

According to McCollom, she said her name was Lisa and she was from Philadelphia.

“There was some outreach to the Greater Philadelphia area, but again, that's what she said,” said Kyes. “Whether or not she could have been from Washington state, California — God only knows.”

At the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Robert Lowery says there could be a simple reason why no one has identified Chelsea Jane Doe.

Lowery, a former St. Louis police homicide commander, said he believes she may have been in foster care.

“The fact is no one seems to be looking for this child even though we have some ideas of her origins, where she's from — possibly out of Philadelphia, found in Boston,” said Lowery. “She was a child sex trafficking victim.”

Earlier this year, Kristi Andrews, a forensic artist at the center, created a reconstruction of what Jane Doe’s face looked like in life in an effort to finally identify her.

“We don't want this individual to sit there with a number,” said Andrews. “We don't want them to be a number. We want them to be a name.”

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Chief Kyes said he hopes all this work will soon reveal her name — a secret that’s haunted him for years.

“I look at that face,” said Kyes. “That's somebody's daughter and that is beyond heartbreaking.”

If you have any information about Chelsea Jane Doe, please call Massachusetts State Police at 978-745-8908.

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