Stripped and strangled with her Bikini top: Who was ‘Valentine Doe’?

Despite the wealth of modern forensic and technological expertise available to authorities, some criminal cases prove agonisingly difficult to solve. It’s a frustrating fact of life that for all the investigations that result in a conviction with a modicum of closure for victims and their loved ones, sometimes those trying to secure justice run into a dead end.

One such baffling crime occurred on Valentine’s Day 1991 in Big Coppitt Key, Monroe County Florida. On the morning of 15 February, the dead body of a young woman was discovered in an overgrown section of the Bahia Honda State Recreation Area. The victim, believed to be between 16 and 25 years of age, had been stripped naked, severely beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled with her bikini top.

A 1993 composite of ‘Valentine Doe’ by Florida Police Department


The tragic victim was immediately dubbed ‘Valentine Doe’, a moniker given extra poignancy because of a tattoo of the word love inside a heart shaped design on her left shoulder. At first, police were confident of identifying the deceased, piecing together the details of her murder and then bring the killer(s) to justice.

Valentine’s unseasonal clothes and lack of tan lines pointed to her not being a Florida native, her pristine teeth suggested a stable background and her numerous piercings and tattoos offered themselves up as useful identifying markers. Post mortem examinations also revealed stretch marks on her abdomen, in keeping with having carried a baby full term – another piece of information the authorities hoped would help with the identification process.


Additionally, several motorists approached the authorities to state they had seen a woman matching the deceased’s description hitchhiking along US Highway 1, not 20 miles from where her body was discovered.

Further witnesses mentioned a white pick up truck with two white male passengers in it, being seen a number of times in the area of the murder, including on Valentine’s Day itself. The truck would become one of over 600 leads that authorities would, unsuccessfully, follow up on over the subsequent months and years, as the identities of both Valentine Doe and the killer(s) remained a mystery. Valentine Doe is registered on website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the case has featured on America’s Most Wanted.

Someone, somewhere knows who Valentine Doe is and who ended her life in such horrific circumstances.

Read more in-depth fascinating true crime stories in the latest issue of Real Crime or subscribe and save 40% on the cover price.