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The Unsolved Murder of the “Nation River Lady”

Case File Overview

On May 3, 1975, a farmer found the body of a woman in the Nation River. Her remains were located about 91 m (300 ft) from the Highway 417 bridge near Casselman, Ontario. This location is approximately 60 km (35 mi) east of Ottawa. The unidentified woman has become known as the “Nation River Lady.”

View from the bridge 

Image of the view from the bridge at the location of the Nation River Lady's remains .
Image source: OPP website

Map of the area where the body was found

Image of the map of the Nation River Lady's remains .
Image source: OPP website

Police believe her body was thrown from the westbound lane of the Highway 417 bridge into the Nation River. Initially, blood evidence on the bridge indicated that the Nation River Lady was killed 1 to 4 weeks prior to her discovery. But in 2005 the evidence was reexamined. As a result, her time of death was expanded to as early as the fall of 1974 to a few weeks before her discovery.

The autopsy findings hold the only information we know about the Nation River Lady.

She was Caucasian and 25-50 years old. Also, she was 157 cm (5’2”) to 173 cm (5’8”) and approximately 45 kg (100 lb). She had brown hair dyed a reddish strawberry blonde.

Some additional details concluded after a thorough investigation of her body were that the Nation River Lady was a right-handed coffee drinker who likely smoked. Her fingernails and toenails were manicured and painted with a bright pink polish.

She had some other identifying characteristics. For example, she had partial upper and lower dentures and a gap between her front teeth. The style of dentures she had was common in southern Ontario and Canada. She had an appendix removal surgical scar, meaning at some point she had her appendix removed.

And it was determined that the Nation River Lady had never given birth to children.

Dentures

Image of the Nation River Lady's dentures
Image source: OPP website

The body was partially clothed. In fact, she was only wearing a navy blue body shirt with snaps that closed at the crotch.

Navy blue body shirt

Image of clothing worn by murder victim Nation River Lady
Image source: OPP website

The Nation River Lady was strangled to death with coaxial cable television wire. Also, her hands and feet were bound with men’s neckties. Dishtowels and a cloth were wrapped around her head. A J-Cloth and a curtain rod runner were also found with her body.

The Nation River Lady has never been identified and her killer has yet to face justice for their crime.

Detailed Evidence Description

Paying close attention to the evidence found with the Nation River Lady’s body may help solve this case, so it is important to carefully review the following list:

Curtain rod runner: was found under the Nation River Lady’s left arm.

Coaxial television cable wire: which is used for cable television hook-ups. The cable is black and lightly speckled with grey paint. It was manufactured in Renfrew, Ontario and distributed in the Ottawa, Hull, Montreal and Brockville areas.

J-Cloth: with a red and white pattern; it is very common.

J-Cloth

Image of J-cloth found with body of Nation River Lady
Image source: OPP website

Irish toast dishtowel: is a regular dishtowel with a traditional Irish toast printed on it. It was manufactured in Ireland and exported to Toronto, Ontario. It was sold in Ottawa, Toronto, and MontrealFreimans Limited department stores carried the dishtowel for $1.39.

Irish toast dishtowel 

Image of tea towel found with body of Nation River Lady
Image source: OPP website

Flowered dishtowel: which was a common flowered dishtowel sold in many areas.

Flowered dishtowel

Image of cloth found with murder victim Nation River Lady
Image source: OPP website

Green cloth: that the police provided no additional information about, which leads us to believe that they could not determine name brand or any other identifying features about this cloth that were worth sharing.

Green cloth

Image of green cloth associated with murder victim Nation River Lady
Image source: OPP website

Neckties:

There were three neckties found with the Nation River Lady’s body.

1) A Canada tie. This had a Canadian emblem in three places. It was Manufactured by the Metropolitan Cravat Corporation in Montreal, Quebec and distributed in multiple stores in Quebec and Ontario.

Image of tie binding Nation River Lady's body
Image source: OPP website

2) A striped tie with three shades of blue.

Image of tie used to bind the Nation River Lady's body
Image source: OPP website

3) And a tie with a red and white diamond-type pattern covering its entire surface area.

Image of tie used to bind Native River Lady's body
Image source: OPP website

Case File Theories

It is near impossible to propose any theories in this case until the Nation River Lady is identified.

The police have conducted an extensive investigation. And her DNA and fingerprints are on file awaiting a match. Authorities have shared that they are surprised that the Nation River Lady has never been reported missing.

One lead, though, came up during the initial investigation. A store clerk in Marmora recalled selling a Canada tie to a couple. The description of the woman matched the Nation River Lady. The store clerk, though, could not recall the date of the sale. With the woman was a man about 163-168 cm tall (or 5’4″ to 5’6″ tall) and around 35 years old.

Recent developments

3-D Clay Bust

In 2017, a 3-D clay reconstruction bust of the Nation River Lady was constructed. The OPP has never given up on this haunting cold case.

3-D clay bust 

Image of unknown murder victim Nation River Lady
Image source: OPP website

OPP forensic artist Constable Duncan Way created the 3-D clay reconstruction.

Way said, “When we do the 3D reconstructions, there is a level of subjectivity. What we’re always trying to do is achieve a likeness [so] that someone who would have known her in life may recognize her.”

Forensic anthropologists assisted with the reconstruction. It took roughly 60 hours.

According to Toronto.com, the 3-D clay reconstruction has resulted in nearly 100,000 Facebook impressions as well as almost 40,000 Twitter impressions. Also, videos posted about the clay bust have had over 20, 000 views. This is all good news as it keeps the Nation River Lady fresh in the public’s mind, helping to ensure she is not forgotten.

Continued DNA Testing

The DNA Doe Project is reportedly working with the OPP on the Nation River Lady case.

On its website, the DNA Project describes itself as follows:

“The DNA Doe Project is a non-profit initiative that uses investigative genetic genealogy to identify John and Jane Doe unidentified remains. In five short years, we have become a go-to organization for law enforcement agencies and medical examiners across North America, helping them solve their most intractable cases. Our cutting-edge techniques have led us to amazing success, even with cases where the DNA was highly degraded or of low quantity.”

The organization is comparing the Nation River Lady’s DNA to samples in other databases in a search for a familial match. This could result in the information needed to finally get a break in this decades-old case.

What happened to the Nation River Lady?

The more time that passes the less likely it is that the Nation River Lady and her killer will ever be identified. But it is important to keep searching, not only to ensure her killer is punished for their crime, but also so that any friends and family the Nation River Lady may have left behind finally get answers.

Bill Dickson, an OPP media spokesperson, recently shared that the investigation into the Nation River Lady case continues. He explained, “The OPP is committed to giving this woman her real name back and holding her killer or killers accountable for their actions. Our investigators continue to appeal for anyone who has any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, to call the OPP.”

A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the identification of the Nation River Lady and her killer. If you have information about the Nation River Lady, call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122. Or you can provide information anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Related Reading

Capital Crimes: 1975 Casselman homicide victim — the ‘Nation River Lady’ — still without a nameOttawa Citizen

DNA sleuth claims Nation River Lady ID coming soonNation Valley News 

BEHIND THE CRIMES: Can you identify the Nation River Lady? – Toronto.com

Nation River Lady  – Ontario’s Missing Adult Registry case overview

Nation River Lady – OPP case overview

“OPP hopes new 3D portrait helps ID Nation River Lady”CBC News article

“OPP renew efforts to identify ‘Nation River Lady'”CTV News Ottawa article

Check out the mysterious murder of Lisa Leckie and the Samuel Lottery cold case.

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5 Comments

  1. out out

    I truly enjoy reading your blog and I looҝ forward to your neᴡ updɑtes.

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks so much! Have a great day.

  2. JM JM

    ok, there are ways that they might have been able to solve it sooner but here’s my idea. If they look on the ties, cloths, and runner, if there is any sort of barcode, they can figure out where it was purchased, the date if it has the receipt in the system, and if the store has cameras, try and see if they can see on the cameras who bought any of the items. That could give them a lead on who killed her.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi JM – Thanks for reading and for sharing your ideas! I agree that the clothing and materials found with the body may hold the key to this case. I sure hope the police investigated them fully. Here’s hoping somehow they can be identified. The more time that passes the more worried I am that this case will never be solved. Take care ~ Christine

  3. Eliza Eliza

    She may not have been reported missing because she might have been a transient, a prostitute, or possibly married and her husband did it and told everyone she ran off with another man. She might have had adopted children, who were told the same thing.

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