URBANA — Champaign County investigators say they have identified the woman whose remains were found near Thomasboro in 1995, and known only as “Jane Doe” for a quarter of a century. Now, they have identified “Jane Doe” as Keri Lyn Wyant. And they’re asking people who knew her to come forward with any information they have.
Investigators with the Champaign County sheriff and coroner believe Wyant was murdered, some months before her skeletal remains were discovered in a farm field.
Speaking at a news conference at the coroner’s office in Urbana on Tuesday, Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman said he’s asking anyone who knew Keri Lyn Wyant at any point in her life to contact the investigators at his department.
“Even if it’s not related to this case whatsoever at all, if it’s just simply saying, I remember this girl back when, that is one step closer to putting why she was here in Champaign County, then we know now,” said Heuerman.
Investigators used genetic genealogical techniques to match a DNA sample from the remains found near Thomasboro to other samples recorded in a genealogical DNA database. Yoland McClary and JR Rosenberger, producers of true crime TV programs, paid for the DNA analysis. This provided enough information for investigators to contact the couple they believed to be Wyant’s parents to see if they were a genetic match.
“Once Keri’s parents were identified, or who we thought were her parents, DNA was collected from her parents and was sent in for testing, in comparison against Jane Doe’s DNA from her remains,” said Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup. “And that confirmation we received in late August, early September.”
Sheriff’s investigators then put together a timeline of Keri Lyn Wyant’s life, looking for clues of what may have happened to her.
Born in Galesburg in 1971, investigators say Wyant grew up in the Galva-Kewanee area, where she attended Galva High School, but did not graduate. The timeline shows her leaving home in the mid-1980s, while in her teens, and living with relatives, then at the Southside Mission in Peoria. A series of jobs followed, at restaurants and other businesses in Galva, Galesburg, Abingdon and Peoria, and also at a gas station/truck stop in Fina, Texas. Wyant may also have spent time during the last couple of years before her death in the Little Rock, Arkansas area.
Investigators say Wyant returned to west-central Illinois in 1994, pregnant and apparently without a place to live. She stayed with a friend in Kewanee and gave birth to a son. Later that year, with the son still an infant, Keri began working with a carnival at the Henry County Fair in Cambridge, Illinois, leaving her baby with her friend. (Investigators say Keri’s son died in a traffic accident in 2001, at the age of seven).
Investigators believe the carnival, Swyear Amusements of New Athens, Illinois, came to Champaign County in July 1994 for the Fisher Fair. Although employment records from the period could not be found, investigators say it is possible Keri Wyant was in Fisher in July, 1994, roughly 15 miles from where her remains were eventually found, outside of Thomasboro, on May 1st, 1995.
Champaign County investigators says they tried several methods to identify the “Jane Doe” remains over the years, but with no success, until they were contacted by McClary and Rosenberger in 2019. The two producers are working on a TV project called the “Unknown Doe Project”. Investigators say it’s possible but not at all certain that the Keri Wyant case could be featured in the program.
For now, Champaign County Sheriff’s detective are seeking information from anyone with information about the names of Keri Wyant’s friends, acquaintances and others she interacted with. Those wishing to give information should contact Detective Dwayne Roelfs or Lt. Curt Apperson in the Sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Division, at 217-384-1213.