SENECA — The only article of clothing with the woman's body was a brightly colored sweater, which was wrapped around her head and the fatal wound: a single gunshot.
Decades later, those sparse facts constitute virtually all that is known about the body found in a rural ditch in unincorporated Grundy County near Seneca on Oct. 2, 1976.
Thanksgiving Day will mark the 42nd anniversary of her funeral, which was attended by the handful of officials who made burial arrangements without knowing her name.
Death investigators, however, hope a new artist's rendering can finally provide an identity that remains stubbornly elusive. Even technological advances in DNA testing have not provided the most basic information necessary to advance the cold case.
"She is a relative to somebody out there," Grundy County Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson said. "There's somebody who is missing this female — and has been for a long time."
The location of the body and the woman's African-American heritage led investigators to believe suspects traveled some distance to bring the body to the spot where it was found.
The body was discovered not far from an Interstate 80 interchange in an area that few African Americans called home at the time.
"Especially in 1976, there wouldn't have been many African Americans living around here," Johnson said. "My interpretation all along has been that she was dumped there."
The Grundy County Coroner's Office recently commissioned forensic artists to create a digital image of what the homicide victim may have looked like at the time of her death, including a sweater with similar markings and colors to the one found with the victim.
The rendering has resulted in a few leads since its initial release over the summer in the Chicago area, and investigators are now expanding the search for relatives across Illinois.
Anyone with information on the woman's identity can contact Johnson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (815) 942-3792.
Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.