Remains Found in 1988 Identified
Earlier this evening the Baca County Sheriff’s Office and Coroner’s Office issued a joint press release that remains found Southwest of Springfield have been identified.
In June of 1988, a local farmer reported to the Baca County Sheriff’s Office that he had found what he believed to be human remains on his farm approximately 20 miles southwest of the Town of Springfield. The Town of Springfield is located in Baca County Colorado and is best described as a small, sparsely populated farming and ranching community located in the far southeast corner of the state. Former Baca County Sheriff Willard Goff and several deputies along with Baca County Coroner, Robert Morrow, responded to the scene and confirmed the presence of human remains estimated to have been there for 1-3 years. The coroner’s office and sheriff’s office with the assistance of the farm operator spent several days searching the area, documenting items found and their location, and screening the soil in the area in search of vidence. However, nothing was found to be able to identify the remains or to assist in determining how or why the person had died or how they ended up in the farmer’s field.
Many efforts were made to try to identify the person. Dental impressions were made and dental records were submitted to the National Crime Information Center to try to obtain a match with any missing persons. DNA samples were taken and submitted for analysis even though DNA was only beginning to be used in identifying persons. An anthropological study was completed in an attempt to find something useful in identifying the deceased person and to find any evidence that might be on the remains. Facial reconstruction was completed to get an idea what the person may have looked like. Even the fillings in the teeth were analyzed in an attempt to determine where the unidentified person may have been from. Many possible matches, including potential dental matches were received. Each potential match was compared to the remains and excluded. A press release was published at that time asking for anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s Office.
After the extensive investigation, the remains were still unidentified and the case became cold. As such, the remains were given the name Jane Doe and were buried in the Springfield Cemetery. Buried along with the remains were copies of pertinent case information in hopes someday something would happen that would make it possible to identify the deceased person and bring closure for the family. All the records about the case and efforts made to identify the person were retained by the coroner’s office and sheriff’s office.
In May 2021, the Baca County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office were contacted by an investigations intern working for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation asking permission to submit the data from our 1988 Jane Doe case into NamUs, a national missing and unidentified persons clearinghouse and resource center for missing and unidentified remains cases that was launched in 2007.
In July of 2021, the Baca County Coroner’s Office contracted with Solved by DNA, an investigative genetic genealogy company, to attempt to identify Jane Doe. Investigative genetic genealogy combines advanced DNA testing of crime scene DNA or DNA from unidentified human remains with traditional genealogical research to predict where a suspect or unidentified person may fit in a family tree. The old DNA records were located but due to the limitations in technology available at the time of locating the remains the records were not adequate to do a familial study so new DNA samples would be needed.
The current Baca County Sheriff Aaron Shiplett and the Baca County Coroner’s Office were hopeful that advances in technology could potentially identify Jane Doe. Members of the sheriff’s office and coroner’s office spent time consolidating pertinent case information from both agencies’ case files into the sheriff’s office database. Those files were then digitized for investigative purposes and with the hopes that this would also help preserve the original documents as some of them are now 34 years old.
On 12/13/2021, the Baca County Coroner’s Office and Sheriff Aaron Shiplett had the remains of Jane Doe exhumed and obtained new samples to test for DNA. The remains were then reinterred in the Springfield cemetery. The samples were delivered to Colorado Bureau of Investigation in Pueblo by the Baca County Coroner’s Office for analysis. After analysis, CBI entered the new DNA profile into NamUs.
In August 2021, the Baca County Sheriff’s Office and Baca County Coroner’s Office were notified that a possible familial DNA match had been located. Through their research, Solved by DNA had been able to locate a person with DNA markers that indicated that they were a family member of Jane Doe. The Baca County Sheriff’s Office contacted several possible family members of the match and was able to get them in touch with Solved by DNA. Solved by DNA asked the possible match to submit an additional DNA sample that was necessary to determine if the Baca County Jane Doe was related to them. The family member agreed and Solved by DNA began the process of obtaining their DNA for the necessary research.
On 9/26/2022, Baca County was notified by NamUs, that a possible family DNA match for our Jane Doe had been located. On 10/06/2022, Baca County agencies were notified that not only was the familial DNA submitted for analysis by Solved by DNA a match for family of our Jane Doe, but the DNA profile of a person who submitted her DNA sample to the McAllen TX Police Department had been linked to our Jane Doe by NamUs.
The sample obtained by the McAllen Police Department had been submitted in 2004 and was submitted by a person searching for her missing mother Nora Elia Castillo. This submission was tied to Nora Elia Castillo’s missing person case that had been filed in 1996. Although that case was filed in 1996 the reporting party stated that Nora Elia Castillo had been missing since 1986 or 1987. It was also reported to the McAllen Police Department that the last contact with Nora Castillo was a collect call from somewhere in Colorado sometime in 1986 or 1987.
Descriptors and evidence from the McAllen Police Department missing person identified as Nora Elia Castillo were consistent with evidence that Baca County investigators were able to obtain in our Jane Doe case from 1988 and it was determined that Nora Elia Castillo and Jane Doe were positively the same person.
Nora Elia Castillo’s family was located and notified that she was found and where her remains are buried in Baca County. After almost 36 years, the family of Nora Elia Castillo finally knows where she is! Family members have now had the opportunity to visit Nora Elia Castillo’s (aka Jane Doe’s) burial site and also the scene where she was located in 1988.
Many thanks go out to all the agencies that cooperated in identifying Nora Elia Castillo! The Baca County Sheriff’s Office, the Baca County Coroner’s Office, Michele Kennedy with Solved by DNA, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, McAllen Texas Police Department, NamUs, and the University of North Texas all worked closely together investigating and solving this portion of the case.
It is still unknown why Nora Elia Castillo was in Colorado or the circumstances of her death. It is our hope that anyone with information about this case will see this release and contact law enforcement. If you have any information about Nora Elia Castillo or this case, please contact the Baca County Sheriff’s Office at (719) 523-4511 or the McAllen Texas Police Department at (956) 681-2221. The Baca County Sheriff’s Office will continue to investigate this case as a potential homicide.