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Montana Cold Case: Woman’s remains identified after 36 years

Janet Lee Lucas
Posted at 10:49 AM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 14:44:42-04

MISSOULA — An announcement has been made in a Montana cold case investigation that goes back 36 years.

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that “it is with both great pride and sadness” that a name has been given "to the unidentified remains previously known as ‘Christy Crystal Creek’.”

Her name is Janet Lee Lucas. The skeletal remains of the 23-year-old woman from Spokane were found by a bear hunter near Crystal Creek on Sept. 9, 1985. The remains were not able to be identified when they were discovered.

“Despite decades of work with forensic anthropologists and a forensic odontologist, and hours of research scouring missing persons databases here and in Canada, her identity remained a mystery,” the news release states.

Financial help the Montana Department of Justice’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) program the Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit partnered with Othram labs earlier this year in an effort to identify the remains.

Othram Labs conducted advanced DNA analysis “which enabled us to initiate a forensic genetic genealogy investigation similar to the work the team did in the Siobhan McGuinness case,” the news release states.

Following numerous interviews with family members -- and confirming the conclusions with additional DNA testing of relatives -- the Sheriff’s Office conclusively identified the remains as Lucas’s.

Lucas grew up in California and Washington and had seven brothers and sisters. She also had a son who was five years old when she went missing. He has spent much of his adult life searching for his mother.

“We cannot rest on our success of having finally identified Janet. We must now seek justice for Janet,” stated Detective Captain Dave Conway.

After speaking with her family and friends it was determined that she was last seen in the summer of 1983 in Sandpoint, Idaho.

“Our focus has changed from “who is Christy Crystal Creek?” to “what happened to Janet Lucas? This is now a cold case homicide investigation and we need your help,” stated Conway.

No records have been found showing Janet living in, or spending time in Montana, so the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office is sharing a 1979 picture in hopes of finding anyone who may have known or seen Lucas in Missoula in the summer of 1983 and into 1984.

The Cold Case Unit and others in the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office are looking into all of the available information, including new information provided by family members.

Due to the close proximity to where Lucas's remains were found -- and the remains of Debbie Deer Creek -- the Cold Case Unit is reviewing evidence and reports from the Wayne Nance case file to identify any possible link between Nance and Lucas.

“I’d like to thank the Cold Case Unit, University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, Montana Regional Program for continually updating Janet’s profile, the Montana DOJ SAKI program, Montana DOJ Forensic Science Division, the FBI Forensic Genetic Genealogy program, Othram DNA laboratory and Janet’s family,” stated Sheriff T.J. McDermott.

“It truly was a team effort that required the assistance and cooperation of a number of agencies and people to bring some closure to the Lucas family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Janet’s family during this difficult time,” Sheriff McDermott continued.

Lucas's family released a statement in response to Monday's announcement.

"After decades of missing Janet, our family is broken hearted to learn that she was tragically taken, unidentified and spent a large amount of years alone. However, she never spent one moment without being loved. Janet had a contagious smile, warm personality and wore her heart on her sleeve."

"Janet had been missed dearly, searched for but most importantly never forgotten. Janet was loved by everyone. Not only was she a mother, she was a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend and now a grandmother to 4 beautiful children. We are grateful to finally be able to bring her home to us, as well as bring Janet the peace and rest she so deserves," the statement continued."