May 13, 2021 18:54

Man arrested in 1976 cold case murder of pregnant teenager

Amanda Christman

The Citizens’ Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

State police have made an arrest in a ghastly decades-old murder that occurred near White Haven.

After 44 years, state police at Fern Ridge announced Wednesday that they filed a first degree felony charge of criminal homicide against Luis Sierra, 63, of Ozone Park, New York.

He would have been 19 at the time of the murder.

Police said he is the man who killed Evelyn Colon, 15, of Jersey City, New Jersey, better know in Northeast Pennsylvania for 44 years as ” Beth Doe.”

Her mutilated remains and that of her near full-term baby were found in suitcases that were tossed off the Interstate 80 overpass bridge which spans the Lehigh River, just outside of White Haven.

His arrest came after “Beth Doe” was identified as Colon.

Troopers said Sierra is in custody and awaiting extradition. No further details were available Wednesday, but state police, in consultation with the Carbon County District Attorney’s Office, will provide more information soon.

Troopers were called Dec. 20, 1976, to investigate human remains found on the riverbank of the Lehigh River in East Side borough, Carbon County.

According to published reports, she was violently raped, strangled and shot in the neck, and her baby was cut from her body. Her nose, ears and breasts were removed.

Kenneth Jumper Jr., then 14, was walking near the river when he made the stunning discovery — two suitcases and body parts found at the river bank. Investigators later found a third suitcase that contained the baby’s remains. New York newspaper pages from 1976 were also found with the remains, according to Standard-Speaker news stories from the time.

In 1976, police had only interviews, fingerprints and dental records as they worked to identify the deceased.

Numerous interviews and other police work followed throughout the decades, involving exhuming the remains, multiple composite sketches and studying the DNA.

“Technology changes and works toward our advantage. Our investigators stay up with that and it allows our investigators to move forward with these cold cases,” said Trooper Anthony Petroski, community services officer, though he couldn’t offer details relative to the Colon case.

In 2007, Colon’s body was exhumed for DNA with help from now retired state police corporal Thomas McAndrew and his retired partner, Shawn Williams, who were attached to the Hazleton barracks; then Carbon County District Attorney Gary Dobias; and Phil Jeffries, deputy coroner.

Her name was still unknown when she was re-interred in Laurytown Road Cemetery, near Weatherly, where she was first buried in 1983.

McAndrew said he and Williams spent a long time on the case — from the early 2000s until they retired a few years ago.

While it’s unclear as of now what exactly led police to identify Sierra as Colon’s killer, McAndrew said technology like genealogy is solving a lot of cases nationwide. The problem is there’s not a lot of funding for it and there’s a push to not allow police to use it in some states.

“That’s what’s standing in the way,” he said.

Genealogy in police work got a lot of attention when the Golden State Killer was identified as Joseph DeAngelo in 2018.

“It is really amazing. Genealogy is really going to open the door for more and more of these cases,” said McAndrew, who lectures nationwide on cold cases.

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(c)2021 The Citizens’ Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

Visit The Citizens’ Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) at citizensvoice.com

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