Metro-East News

Judge allows body buried in Fairview Heights cemetery to be exhumed

Who is the Jane Doe buried in Fairview Heights cemetery?

Herculaneum Police Chief Mark Tulgetske discusses exhumation of a Jane Doe buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
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Herculaneum Police Chief Mark Tulgetske discusses exhumation of a Jane Doe buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

A St. Clair County Judge signed an order on Tuesday that will allow the exhumation of a woman buried without a name in a Fairview Heights cemetery.

Judge Julie Katz signed the order after a request was filed last week.

Four years ago, then-St. Clair County Coroner asked Illinois State Police Sgt. Abigail Keller to help identify the Jane Doe who was buried in pauper’s grave in Greenwood Cemetery in 1976. Keller, according to the court records, used the National Missing and Unidentified Person System database and found a missing Festus, Mo. woman who matched Jane Doe’s physical characteristics. Her name was Geneva Adams.

Adams, who was 53 when she disappeared, had auburn hair and upper dentures, just like the Greenwood Cemetery Jane Doe. The height, weight and age of both women also matched.

Assistant State’s Attorney Bernadette Schrempp filed a motion on Nov. 27 requesting the exhumation of Jane Doe, who lies in Lot 77, Grave 1, Section B in Greenwood Cemetery in Fairview Heights. After the body is removed, a DNA sample will be taken and compared to a single tooth removed from Adams during a dental procedure and kept by one of her children.

Adams, a mother of 10, worked in factories and nursing homes. Her first husband and father of her children died in 1969. Her second marriage ended in divorce.

On July 24, 1976, she went dancing with man police call a “person of interest” in her disappearance — Jimmie Lee Mills.

Mills told reporters in 2003 that he and Adams began the evening at The Artesian Lounge in Herculaneum. Mo., then the two went to an after-hours club in East St. Louis before Mills dropped Adams off at a Festus, Mo. doughnut shop around 4 a.m. She was never heard from again.

Six weeks later, a man stopped in a Washington Park gas station at around 11 p.m. on a Saturday. It was Sept. 4, 1976. The man told the attendant that he had found a body on a heavily wooded hillside and asked the attendant to call the police. The unidentified man left the gas station before police arrived.

Police did find the body of a naked, decomposing woman on the hillside.

But in a 1976 news story, St. Clair County Deputy Coroner John Kassly told a reporter that a state pathologist’s X-ray report didn’t show any evidence of gunshot wounds or “other marks of violence.”

Kassly also told the reporter that there no clothing or jewelry were found near the body. Her hair was tied up in a ponytail with a rubber band with another around her left wrist, which was “apparently was a spare in the event the other band broke.”

After checking local missing persons without a match, the body was placed in a metal box called a “Ziegler Case” and buried in Greenwood Cemetery where she lay in an unmarked grave for more than 40 years.

Mills was also a person of interest in the murder of a St. Louis woman named Cynthia Horan who lived in the same boarding house in 1985. Her body was found in Jefferson County, Mo.

Mills has never been charged in either Horan’s murder or Adams’ disappearance.

Mills is now 76 years old. He’s serving a 10-year prison sentence for possession of a firearm at Butner Federal Correction Institution in North Carolina.