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Woman known as ‘Nation River Lady’ is identified nearly 5 decades after she was found floating in river, Canadian police say

By Zenebou Sylla, CNN

(CNN) — Canadian police have identified a woman known as the “Nation River Lady,” nearly five decades after she went missing and was found dead floating in a river in Ontario, police said.

Jewell “Lalla” Langford, whose maiden name was Parchman, had traveled to Montréal in April 1975, but never returned home and her family reported her missing, Ontario Provincial Police said Wednesday in a news release.

Police say Langford, 48, became known as the “Nation River Lady,” after the Nation River in eastern Ontario where her remains were found on May 3, 1975.

In March 2022, her remains were repatriated to the US followed by a memorial service and burial, the release says.

Langford had been strangled with a flat plastic-covered television cable, according to the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that works to identify John and Jane Does using investigative genetic genealogy and assisted police in Langford’s case. Her hands and ankles had also been bound with men’s neckties, and her face had been wrapped with a tea towel, according to the organization.

Forensic artist’s renderings and three-dimensional facial approximation developed in 2017 were not able to help identify Langford or any potential suspects until late 2019, when a new DNA profile of Langford was obtained by the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto that matched samples collected from two individuals listed in a family DNA tree, according to the release.

After a lengthy investigation of 47 years, officials were able to arrest an individual residing in Hollywood, Florida.

Rodney Nichols, 81, was criminally charged with Langford’s murder at the Ontario Court of Justice late last year, the release states.

“Thanks to advances in genetic genealogy science and the collective commitment of all of the investigators involved, we have brought resolution to the families and friends of this missing person who met with foul play,” Detective Inspector Daniel Nadeau at OPP’s Criminal Investigation Branch said in a statement. “We can be satisfied with the results of this investigation and that we were able to return Jewell Langford’s remains to her loved ones.”

Police also say Langford and Nichols were known to each other but did not elaborate on their relationship.

Langford “was a prominent member of the Jackson, Tennessee business community” who had co-owned a spa with her ex-husband, according to the release.

“In this respect, she truly was a woman ahead of her time,” said Janice Mulcock, a retired detective constable with the Ontario Provincial Police, during a videotaped briefing shared by the Ontario Police Department on Facebook Wednesday. “In fact, so successful she was the chair and president of the Jackson, Tennessee, chapter of the American Businesswomen’s Association, and in 1971 was voted ‘woman of the year’ by her colleagues.”

Officials believed Langford’s case would be solved, Marty Kearns, Deputy Commissioner of OPP Investigations and Organized Crime, said during the briefing Wednesday.

“Detected members of our local crime unit in the criminal investigation branch have always believed this case was solvable, that we would one day identify the person who became known as the Nation River Lady,” Kearns said.

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