Christine Lester

‘Jane Doe’ Found Buried in Gravesite Identified as Navajo Woman Who Vanished Decades Ago, ‘Explicit’ Letter Sent to Family

Officials have identified human remains found in a California gravesite, marked as “Jane Doe” and buried for several decades, as those of Christine Lester, a Navajo woman who disappeared from northern Arizona over 30 years ago.

CBS News reports that in 1987, a woman’s body was discovered on a rural county road in Madera County, California, but authorities were unable to identify her at the time. In 2020, the body was exhumed to establish a DNA profile, which led authorities to match it with one of Lester’s siblings earlier this year, according to officials with the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.

Lester disappeared while en route to Flagstaff from her home in Indian Wells to go shopping. A DNA match with one of her brothers led to the discovery, according to KOAT.

In May 1987, Lester told her family that she intended to hitchhike from Indian Wells to the Flagstaff mall to buy Mother’s Day gifts. Her family is unsure if she ever reached her destination.

“We’ve always held onto the hope that she would walk through that door and introduce us to her family,” her brother, Herbert Rockwell, told CBS 5.

Rockwell said she has no knowledge of who killed his sister, but the family did receive a strange letter addressed to the victim over five years after her disappearance.

“We still don’t know who wrote it. She vanished in ’87, and the letter was written in ’92 or ’93. It was quite strange because she didn’t have a known boyfriend,” Rockwell said.

“The contents of the letter were explicit. I don’t believe that Christine would ever engage in some of the actions that the author described. To me, it felt like he had knowledge about Christine.”

On Monday, Lester’s family received the remains and planned a procession on Friday, to escort the remains from Flagstaff to a family gravesite in the Navajo Nation. A memorial service will be held there, coinciding with the 36th anniversary of her disappearance and on a day designated to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous people worldwide.

“I’d just like to say ‘Welcome home, Christine, Shadi, which means big sister,” Rockwell added.

Police said the case is being investigated as a homicide. Check back for updates.

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[Feature Photo: Christine Lester/Family Handout]