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Case of missing Tennessee woman, whose head was found 30 years ago, still haunts family: ‘We need answers’

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Susan Lund’s remains were identified nearly three decades after they were found – but her story doesn’t end there.

“Her daughter Crystal was recently granted a family awareness grant from the nonprofit Season of Justice,” author Laurah Norton told Fox News Digital. “Through this grant, she’s getting billboards all over Clarksville, Tennessee, where she disappeared.”

“There’s a $10,000 reward that doesn’t expire,” she shared. “We’re hoping that as more people hear about her case, someone who may have information will come forward. She has been identified, but her family still wants answers.”

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Susan Lund's graduation photo

Susan Lund disappeared on Dec. 24, 1992. Remains of a woman were found on Jan. 27, 1993. “Ina Jane Doe” was confirmed to be Susan Lund in 2022. (Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office)

“We want to know – what happened to Susan Lund?” Norton added.

Norton, a writer and researcher, is co-creator of “The Fall Line,” a podcast that focuses on unsolved cold cases in the South. Her new book, “Lay Them to Rest,” explores how forensic science is used to identify John and Jane Does across the country. It also chronicles Lund’s case.

“When I first looked at her case, it was clear that a lot of work had been done,” Norton explained. “But something was still missing. I wanted to learn how we could get this story out in the hopes that it would lead to answers… This was a 25-year-old mother of three who had gone to the grocery store and never came home. It was a really sad and shocking series of events. Her sisters had looked for her… There were so many unanswered questions.”

Lund disappeared on Dec. 24, 1992. On Jan. 27, 1993, a woman’s head was found in Illinois. Two girls made the grisly discovery along a wooded roadway within Wayne Fitzgerald State Park. Investigators were unable to identify the woman they named Ina Jane Doe.

Susan Lund wearing a white dress embracing her mother

Susan Lund’s family is determined to find out who’s responsible for the homicide of Susan Lund. (Courtesy of Laurah Norton)

In February 2021, University of New Hampshire anthropologist Dr. Amy Michael contacted the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. According to a news release from Redgrave Research Forensic Services in Massachusetts, she offered to reexamine the case.

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According to Season of Justice, Michael worked with Norton, and the women found that features of the original sketch of Ina Jane Doe may have been exaggerated. Based on their research, they commissioned a more accurate forensic sketch.

“Dr. Michael, one of my best friends, was there from the very beginning,” Norton explained. “She and I wanted to work on this case together from the start… She was the one who helped me understand where the case was ripe for reanalysis… We have forensic art that was widely circulated. And Ina Jane Doe was depicted with noticeable characteristics. It was so unique that if someone recognized it, they would’ve reached out.

“… Dr. Michael talked to me about how she was passionate about skeletal reanalysis, a term I didn’t understand at the time. She believed it was important to give this a new look with fresh eyes and see if we can bring new life to the case.”

Book cover for Lay them to rest

Laurah Norton chronicled Susan Lund’s case in a new book, “Lay Them to Rest: On the Road with the Cold Case Investigators Who Identify the Nameless.” (Hachette Books)

“I learned that skeletal analysis was a game changer, which can result in new, updated forensic art,” Norton shared. “There is nothing wrong with having new eyes on a cold case.”

Loved ones never gave up. Persistent posts on social media were made to raise awareness of Lund’s disappearance.

Samples taken from the remains were also used by investigators to create a DNA profile. That profile was then sent to the forensic genealogy team. One of Lund’s siblings provided a DNA sample for comparison. In March 2022, it was confirmed that Ina Jane Doe was Lund.

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The young mother, who was pregnant, was last seen at the family’s Clarksville home on Christmas Eve 1992.

A black and white photo of Laurah Norton looking serious

Laurah Norton is hopeful that in her lifetime, we’ll find out what really happened to Susan Lund. (Emily Harris)

“I felt so many emotions when she was finally identified,” said Norton. “I was grateful. And of course, I was sad that this crime had occurred. But there were still so many questions that needed answering. This was only one part of the equation.”

According to reports, Clarksville police searched for Lund, but her missing person’s case was closed around August 1993. While Ina Jane Doe’s head was found 175 miles north of Clarksville, no connection was made between the two cases at the time.

Lund’s three children, who were all under 6 at the time, had long wondered what happened to their mother. According to reports at the time of Lund’s disappearance, the stay-at-home mom had wanted to make a pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner.

Perhaps their mother chose to leave on her own, they once thought. According to Norton’s book, rumors in town insisted that Lund was on drugs or ran off with a boyfriend to start a new life. Her sisters never believed the hurtful gossip.

Billboard for Susan Lunds disappearance

New billboards have been put up in Clarksville to help raise awareness on Susan Lund’s case. (Laurah Norton)

“Crystal was only 4 when her mother disappeared,” Norton shared. “And like Sue, Crystal is a huge animal lover. [Sue] had dreams of eventually becoming a vet tech or a veterinarian. She married her high school sweetheart and had three kids, so she was going to need to wait for them to get a little bit older before she pursued that dream. But she always had a big interest in rescuing animals. Her sister said that she would make friends with a mean dog. And if relatives went away on vacation, it was Sue who stayed to help take care of their animals.”

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“Crystal grew up and now does animal rescue,” Norton shared. “Like her mother, she has this intense love of caring for small creatures. Crystal said that one of her strongest memories of her mom is seeing her crawling under this rickety porch to save a kitten… Anytime someone goes missing, it’s always a tragedy and shocking, no matter how old they are. But knowing how young Susan was, knowing three children grew up without their mother, was just really sad to hear.”

Today, Lund’s family is just as determined to find out who killed the beloved matriarch. Norton said she’s hopeful that in her lifetime, we’ll find out what happened to Lund.

“One thing I’ve learned from working in this field is that you should always have hope,” said Norton. “The worst thing you can do is say, ‘This will never happen.’ And I think the identification of Lund proves that. Hope is the most important thing you can have in any case, especially a cold one. You just need all the facts presented to the right person for the pieces of a puzzle to come together.”

Flyer for Susan Lund

“You can never lose hope,” Laurah Norton told Fox News Digital. (Laurah Norton)

“I am hopeful that this case will be solved,” Norton shared. “I am also hopeful that someone in Clarksville will have one piece of information, which will lead to someone else having another piece of information. I’m hopeful that the people of Clarksville will see Susan’s photo and maybe something will be sparked in their memories.”

Norton believes her book will give other families hope that their cold cases can be revisited today, leading to new answers. She pointed out that more than ever, podcasters and other digital creators have used platforms like Instagram and TikTok to raise awareness of other cases that have impacted their towns.

“Susan Lund’s family, just like all families in similar circumstances, deserve to know what happened – we need answers,” Norton added.

Anyone with information can contact the Sheriff’s Office (618-244-8004) or the Jefferson County Crimestoppers (618) 242-TIPS). The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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