It was surreal.
When legendary Sheriff John York entered the room prior to the press conference, the room stopped. Media stopped talking and tweeting, police straightened their posture, and I stood up out of my chair like I was at a military function.
The Sheriff – dressed in civilian clothes – polite and charismatic as ever, solemnly shook hands with everyone, greeting them by name, looking them in the eye and quietly nodding his head. It was an emotional day for the now retired Sheriff.
Sheriff York had passionately sought out the identity of that girl every day since 1979, when Jane Doe, now known as Tammy Jo Alexander, was brutally murdered in a Caledonia corn field.
Prior to the start of the press conference, Sheriff Thomas Dougherty invited the former Sheriff along with Joe Rychlicki (the first officer on scene that day) to stand up and participate in the press conference. The invitation of them to the podium not only shows the respect and values of our community, but also reflects the way in which the former Sheriff groomed our new leaders: with class.
It was truly like a scene from a John Steinbeck novel. Old Sheriff with New, standing in front of the community to announce that a cold case had just been ripped open. Jane Doe now has an identity, a personality. When you look at her yearbook photo you see this beautiful young girl – happy, smiling, a nice hair cut with freedom in her eyes. You don’t see that corpse lying in the corn field with a bullet in her head. Jane Doe, the powerless victim who was always in our hearts now has a name. She is Tammy Jo Alexander, and now she can be a powerful ally in finding her killer.
Sheriff York ensured that no one would forget Jane Doe. Sheriff York planted the seed of passion through his department on identifying who Jane Doe was. The Office followed up on over 10,000 leads before one of them broke the case open. This obsessive pursuit led to her identification 3 decades in the making.
The obsessive pursuit in which Sheriff York chased down the identity of Tammy Jo now becomes the obsessive pursuit of Sheriff Dougherty in finding her killer. The torch has been passed.