Bodies identified through DNA as that of two Phila. girls missing since 1968

Sandra Ann Stiver , 14, last seen in 1968.
Sandra Ann Stiver , 14, last seen in 1968.
Posted: June 09, 2014

Two Philadelphia girls who went missing in 1968 have been identified through DNA as murder victims who were buried in Berks County, State Police said Friday.

Sandra Ann Stiver, 14, and Martha Evelyn Stiver, 17, who were sisters-in-law, were last seen around summer of that year in the area of Kensington and Frankford Avenues.

In August 1968 and April 1969, the bodies of two unidentified girls were found in southern Berks County, police said.

The body of Sandra Stiver was found first. She had been shot multiple times.

The cause of death for Martha Stiver was undetermined, but investigators believed she was murdered around the same time as Sandra, police said.

In late October, after authorities were led to suspect that the Jane Does could be the Stiver girls, their bodies were exhumed from a potter's field in Cumru Township in Berks County.

The girls were identified through DNA comparisons with family members.

Their remains will be returned to the family after they're tested at a laboratory at the University of North Texas and bones taken as evidence by the State Police are returned, said Jonn M. Hollenbach, assistant chief deputy coroner.

Information about the missing "Berks County Jane Does" had been posted on the website, pennsylvaniamissing.com, which is part of the national volunteer Doe Network dedicated to finding missing people.

Nancy Monahan, owner of the site and Pennsylvania director of the Doe Network, said she received case information from State Police investigators and personal information from family members, including Sandra's sister, Hazel, and Martha's daughter, her only child.

The murdered girls were sisters-in-law because Martha had married a brother of Sandra's, Monahan said.

The Stiver family moved to Philadelphia from Kansas City, Mo., and family members thought the girls took off possibly to return to their former home.

The Reading Eagle newspaper reported earlier this year that investigators at the time believed the girls had worked at the Reading Fair in 1968.

How they wound up in Reading and then what happened that led to their deaths are now the key questions of a renewed homicide investigation by the state police.

The connection between the missing Philadelphia girls and the murders was first made by Sandra's sister, Hazel, who was researching the Doe Network online when she found information about the "Berks County Jane Does" and saw a girl in a photograph that looked like Sandra.

Photographs that possibly showed the girls were found in August 1969 in an abandoned hangar that police believed was a hangout for area biker gangs.

Sandra's body was found Aug. 22, 1968, in a wooded area along State Route 82 in Caernarvon Township in southern Berks County. It was estimated that she had been killed eight days earlier.

She had been shot multiple times with .22-caliber bullets in the chest and abdomen, and once to the left temple.

The teenager was wearing a black Nehru-type blouse, sandy-colored nylon stocking, a white girdle, and white sandals. No skirt or pants were found.

She wore a bronze religious medal on a chain depicting a crucifix on the front. On the back was the inscription: "I am a Catholic. In case of emergency, call me a priest."

Martha's skeletal remains were discovered April 18, 1969, in French Creek State park, about 31/2 miles from where Sandra's body was found. No clothing was found on the remains. A pair of panties and a sandal were found nearby.

Anyone with information about their deaths is urged to contact the State Police in Reading at 610-378-4011.

Monahan, who lives in Penn Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh, said she learned about the confirmation through a news posting Friday on Facebook.

"This makes it all worthwhile," she said of the effort she puts into helping find missing persons.

Most important, she said, "what matters is finally the girls are going to go home."


bmoran@phillynews.com

215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215

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