Woman may have new lead in cold murder case

CHARLESTON, SC - By Harve Jacobs  bio | email | Twitter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Police say a woman who saw a recent TV report may have a new lead that could identify the victim of a 15-year-old cold murder case in Florida with a possible Charleston connection.

The female victim was found wrapped in blankets in waters near Ft. Myers, Florida in 1995. She was wearing a gown with the words, "Charleston, SC V.A. Hospital" on the back of it.

The body was badly decomposed, and investigators could not identify the victim. Forensic artists did a reconstruction of what the woman may have looked like before she was killed.

Berita Martin saw Live 5 News' story about the case during her lunch break at work. "I saw it and I said, 'Wow, that kind of looks like a friend of mine from a long time ago,'" said Martin.

Live 5 News is a CBS affiliate covering the Charleston, SC metro area.

Martin's friend was Eve Schank, whom she last saw back in 1989. "We were both in the Navy and we were in Orlando together," said Martin. "They caught my attention when they said a hospital gown and then they put the picture up, and the picture looked remarkably like Eve. It's like whoa, I made the connection like that."

Martin happened to pull out the photo two weeks before the story aired. "I hadn't heard from my friend in forever and I thought, 'Let me just call that number and just let them know I have a friend who resembled that picture,'" she said.

She called Cpl. Fred Bowie of the Charleston Police Department and Crime Stoppers. "You never rule out anything like this. This is probably the best clue they've had since the finding of this lady," said Bowie.

Now cops are trying to determine if the murdered "Jane Doe" in Florida may indeed be Martin's old friend, Eve Schank. Martin hopes the answer is no.

"I'm forever an optimist," said Martin. "I'll always look at the glass half full, so I'm pulling that it's not her, but it is remarkably close."

Authorities in Florida are working with the U.S. Navy to try to find out if Schank is alive or if she's the victim of the cold case murder.

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