Family members wish to give 'Valentine Jane Doe' respectful burial in hometown
For 29 years in the Florida Keys, a Genesee County girl was known only as "Valentine Jane Doe."
She had been raped and murdered on Valentine's Day, 1991, her body found the next day by a group of windsurfers walking on a path near a beach. Investigators noted two things about her: she had no tan lines suggesting she was from the north and hadn't been in Florida long, and she had a small heart-shaped tattoo with the word "love" in it.
Over the summer, using DNA matching with relatives, she was at long last identified as Wanda Deann Kirkum, who was 18 at the time of her murder. Wanda was born in Hornell but had spent most of her life in Genesee County going to schools in Pavilion, Batavia and Oakfield.
For those 29 years, her remains were stored in a Florida Social Services vault but recently her ashes were returned to her closest living relative, first cousin Brenda Chartraw.
Chartraw said she and Wanda were close as children and now, after her cousin being known only as a Jane Doe for so many years, Chartraw wants to make sure her name is memorialized with a proper burial in a final resting place and headstone. Kirkum will be lain to rest at a cemetery in Oakfield.
The headstone is being donated by Oakley Monuments of Batavia but Chartraw is asking for the community's help with the rest of the fundraising. She has set up a gofundme.com page and is holding a basket raffle at the Caryville Inn in Oakfield this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets will be drawn at 4 p.m.
Wanda ran away from home when she was 18. Chartraw said Wanda was physically and sexually abused by her father and mother. Her parents, who are both now dead, apparently had no interest in finding her and did not file a missing person's report.
The family believed, Chartraw said, that Wanda wanted to start a new life and had believed that she had done so, without suspecting that she had been killed.
Chartraw said the case of the Valentine Jane Doe was kept top-of-mind within the Monroe County (Florida) Sheriff's Office by the dispatcher who first took the call of Kirkum's body being found by the windsurfers. The case was featured on national television shows but no leads were ever uncovered until this past year.
One of the detectives working the case uploaded Kirkum's DNA to a genealogy site -- using a technique pioneered in California in the Golden State Killer case -- to identify a fourth cousin of Wanda's. With that match, detectives found another family member and acquired a DNA sample to confirm the match.
Using DNA, detectives also identified Kirkum's killer, Robert Lynn Bradley, who was 31 at the time of his murder in Texas the year after he killed Kirkum.
NOTE: Family members say that Kirkum never gave birth to a child, as suggested in the video.