MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) — Skeletal remains discovered in southeastern Iowa in March are believed to be those of a 24-year-old mother who vanished last year, but how and why she died may never be known because a key suspect committed suicide, investigators said Wednesday.
Division of Criminal Investigation special agent Jeff Uhlmeyer said investigators were confident the remains are of those Jackie Douthart of Mount Pleasant, whose disappearance one year ago Tuesday haunted her friends and family and frustrated investigators.
Uhlmeyer said investigators have not been able to determine how Douthart died, but they believe foul play was involved. He said the person of interest in the case was a 24-year-old acquaintance who was the last person with her early on May 22, 2011.
The man, Benjamin Biggs of Mount Pleasant, shot himself to death last June during a police chase and standoff in which he shot and injured two officers in western Illinois.
Friends and family members held a prayer vigil Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of Douthart's disappearance.
Uhlmeyer said the identification was based on an examination by a forensic anthropologist, who determined they were consistent with a female of Douthart's age and height who died last summer or fall.
He said family members also identified a ring, a wristwatch and the fingernails found with the remains as belonging to Douthart, who vanished after a night out with friends.
Scientific testing has been unable to confirm her identification. The state crime lab could not develop a DNA profile to check against Douthart's DNA because the bones had been exposed for months before they were discovered, he said.
The remains will be sent to a Minnesota laboratory for mitochondrial DNA testing, a process that could take one year and will try to link the remains to a sample of her mother's or daughter's DNA. A forensic odontologist also continues to try to link the remains to Douthart through dental records.
Uhlmeyer said the investigation into Douthart's death would continue.