La Presse Article: Murder of Reet Jurvetson: “Somebody knows”, Sept. 1, 2016
Written by Grabrielle DuChaine for La Presse
Originally published on July 1st, 2016
Photo and Articles Subject to Copyright. Used by permission. All Rights Reserved.
“Someone, somewhere, knows something about my sister’s death. I hope that by reading our story, this person will be touched and will talk to the police about it.”
After a lifetime spent in complete darkness, is it too late to obtain justice for a 50-year old crime?
The family of Reet Jurvetson, the girl from Montreal murdered in Los Angeles in 1969 and known until just recently as Jane Doe #59, hopes not.
For the first time since the bloody body of a young unidentified woman that was discovered 47 years ago in the bushes bordering Mulholland Drive was identified as being that of Reet Jurvetson this past winter, Anne Jurvetson, the victim’s sister has accepted to grant an interview. By talking to us, she hopes to finally unblock the investigation.
We met Anne at her house. For courage, she had pinned a round, silver broach on her sweater that had belonged to her sister. She often squeezed the piece of jewelry in her hand during the interview.
Even if the woman in her seventies hadn’t heard from her sister for almost 50 years, and even if, deep down, the idea that Reet had died had germinated a long time ago, she still held out hope. She hoped that the youngest in their family had founded a family. That she had had a fruitful career. That she had experienced love and that one day, maybe, she would turn up.
“Now I know that none of that happened. She was dead all this time.”
Disappeared half a century ago
Reet Jurvetson was 19 years old when she left for Los Angeles. Finally, she was living her dream. She has saved a long time for her trip, even leaving her family’s apartment in Westmount to go live with her grandmother in Toronto and to work for Canada Post.
Once she had arrived in the United States, the pretty brunette sent a postcard to her family in Montreal. She was doing fine, she wrote in Estonian, the language of the country that her parents had fled after the Second World War.
Anne has a clear memory of having seen the postcard. “She told us not to worry.”
Her friends and family never heard from her again.
Worried, they sent someone to follow her trail in California. There was a return address on the postcard, but Reet no longer lived there.
Slowly, the family began to think that Reet wouldn’t be back. The memory of the young woman continued to haunt them. Her father withdrew into himself in his pain and never talked about her. Her mother began sleeping in her daughter’s room. Each year she would write her a birthday card. Anne found them piled up in a drawer when the older lady moved. “She would write Reet’s name followed by a question mark, as if she didn’t know where to send the letter.”
Both parents are dead today. Tonu, their older brother is dead also. Anne thanks God that they never had to find out that their baby was stabbed 150 times and abandoned in a ditch.
Jane Doe #59
During the fall that Reet disappeared, a passer-by found the bloody body of a young woman in the bushes bordering a road in Los Angeles.
The victim had no ID. The only clues: Levi jeans made in Boston, Italian boots and a blue corduroy jacket made in Montreal.
The news of the murder never made it to Quebec. For the American police, she became Jane Doe #59.
The case was classified as unsolved.
Then, last summer, a friend of the Jurvetson family stumbled across a picture of the corpse of a green-eyed brunette who looked just like the missing woman on an American site of missing and unidentified people. The friend got into contact with Linda, Anne’s daughter.
“I saw the family resemblance right away,” she said.
Linda and her husband knocked on Anne’s door. In the cute duplex, they sat side-by-side on the couch, near the piano under which Linda played as a child, with her aunt.
Anne thought the couple looked a little too solemn. “They told me right away. That they believed they had found my sister. That she had been murdered,” she states.
For Anne, the nightmare became reality. “Somewhere inside, I always suspected that she was a Jane Doe. I had even said so to my daughter. I told myself that she was dead, somewhere, and that no one knew who she was.”
A few months later, a DNA test confirmed the worst. But the family had already accepted it. The corpse that had been discovered beside Mulholland Drive had the same birthmark as Reet. And especially, the victim was wearing a ring with a large red stone. A ring Anne knew very well, because she has one exactly the same. It was a gift from their father. Since she heard the news, Anne started wearing her ring again. She also has had a picture of her sister taken on the day of her confirmation enlarged. She was 16 years old. She was wearing a long, white dress. She was smiling.
“She was a girl with so much potential. It breaks my heart to know that she left so young, at the dawn of her life.”
A crime of passion
Who killed Reet Jurvetson? Her sister has absolutely no idea. “This horror is beyond my understanding”, she said.
Some people have blamed Charles Manson, whose disciples committed several violent crimes around the same time.
The family doesn’t believe this theory.
The detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in charge of the investigation believe it to be a crime of passion, in light of the violence of the murder. The police are looking for a certain Jean, or John, a man Reet met in Montreal that she went to see in the United States in 1969. John, who, according to friends of the victim, looked like Jim Morrison, is considered to be a “person of interest” by the authorities.
“I don’t know him. I hadn’t ever even heard of him,” says Anne, who can’t understand that nobody remembers a Jean corresponding to his description. “The fact that nobody is talking, it makes things even more strange”, adds Linda.
Memories and guilt
Anne is a religious woman. When she learned the news of her sister’s assassination, she wanted to bring her body back home. “It is impossible. She was incinerated and her ashes are buried in a mass grave, somewhere in Los Angeles,” she said, crying.
Nothing remains of the objects and clothes that were found with the body. It has been too long. Last week, the family held a small memorial service for Reet at the Estonian church in Montreal. Anne read a long eulogy. But there was nothing to bury. On the altar, there were flowers and a picture.
All that Anne has left of her sister are her childhood memories and an irrational sense of guilt. “Was there anything else that I could have done?” she asks herself again and again.
To help her get through the difficult time, her daughter gave her two budgies. When they were young, Anne and Reet had two of them at home, Jukku and Siiri. “We had taught them all kinds of tricks. They could even do spins on command,” remembers Anne. “Reet was fascinated by our birds. She loved animals.”
When Linda arrived with the cage, last month, Anne cried continuously for 10 long minutes. “Are they really for me? Can I keep them?”
Since then, she spends a lot of time with her budgies, one blue and the other one green, that she has named Buenos and Dias. When she plays with them, Anne talks to Reet.
Soon, she is going to teach her birds to spin.
Anyone who has any information about this case can contact detectives Luis Rivera and Veronica Conrado at the LAPD Unsolved Crimes Unit at 213-486-6818.
Original Articles in French:
- Meurtre d’une Montréalaise à Los Angeles: «Jane Doe #59 a maintenant un nom»
- Meurtre de Reet Jurvetson à Los Angeles en 1969: l’enquête se transporte à Montréal
- Affaire Jurvetson: un témoin clé rencontré par La Presse
- Meurtre de Reet Jurvetson: «Quelqu’un sait»