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New investigation aims to shed light on missing person case 75 years later

Grandchildren still searching for answers
Family members are hoping images of Mary Jane Croft VanGilder will provide answers in a search...
Family members are hoping images of Mary Jane Croft VanGilder will provide answers in a search dating back 75 years.(Shelby Police)
Published: Dec. 24, 2020 at 8:26 AM EST
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SHELBY, Ohio (WTVG) - Whatever happened to Mary Jane? It’s a question that has haunted one family for decades.

Now, a new investigation aims to shed light on a missing person case dating back to 1945.

Family members are hoping images of Mary Jane Croft VanGilder will provide answers in a search...
Mary Jane Croft VanGilder lived in Plymouth and worked at the Wilkins Air Force Depot in nearby Shelby, Ohio.(Shelby Police)

Mary Jane (Croft) VanGilder moved from Fairmont, West Virginia, to Plymouth, Ohio, during World War II. She left behind five children, sending them war bonds she earned from her job as a civilian forklift operator at the Wilkins Air Force Depot in Shelby.

In 1945, Mary Jane filed for divorce, quit her job, and was never heard from again.

Misty James, who lives in Georgia, and Mindy Wilson, who lives in South Carolina, never met their grandmother. Now, they are hoping new technology could help solve a mystery dating back 75 years.

Mary Jane Croft VanGilder lived in Plymouth and worked at the Wilkins Air Force Depot in nearby...
Photos taken during the WWII era aid in the in the search for what became of Mary Jane Croft VanGilder.(Shelby Police)

“You know, initially I thought that Mary Jane could be a Jane Doe somewhere,” said Det. Adam Turner, a graduate of the University of Toledo now with the Shelby Police Department.

Detective Turner has taken up the case, requesting files from the FBI, including letters from former director J. Edgar Hoover.

Letters from J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, show correspondence with the Croft-VanGilder...
Letters from J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, show investigators corresponded with the Croft-VanGilder family throughout the 1950s.(FBI Files)

Detective Turner has also started a search for a DNA match. So far, two Jane Doe bodies have been exhumed, one near Dayton and another in Indiana. Detective Turner is still awaiting lab results before potentially moving forward with the exhumation of two other Jane Does.

“If it’s not her, it’s somebody else and there’s going to be a missing person’s case that is solved because of this case,” said Det. Turner.

A handwritten letter from Mary Jane's oldest daughter addressed to the FBI asks for help in the...
A handwritten letter from Mary Jane's oldest daughter addressed to the FBI asks for help in the search for the missing woman.(FBI Files)

If you have any information or if you think you may recognize the woman in the above photos, you can contact the police department in Shelby by clicking here.

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