Ronette Lynn (Peterson) Burton
Jane Doe gets name after 19 years
Ronette Lynn Peterson
DOB: July 14, 1963
Went Missing from: Madrid, IA
Body found: May 7, 1986 in Lakeland, Florida
Identified as Ronette Peterson in January 2005
- Boone County in Iowa
Madrid in Boone County
Some time in the mid-eighties, Ronette Lynn Peterson, 22, left her Madrid, Iowa, home for unknown locations in Georgia and Florida. In March 1986, a family member received a letter from her, postmarked from Georgia on March 1, 1986. It was the last time her Iowa family heard from her.
On May 7, 1986, an unidentified female’s body was found floating in a water filled pit off Highway 33, approximately three-fourths of a mile north of Combee Road in Lakeland, Florida. An investigation revealed the victim had suffered multiple blows to the head and body and then been put into the water and left to drown. The death was ruled a homicide.
One of the victim’s tattoos seemed especially foretelling; it was a question mark (?) on her right hip.
For the next 19 years, “Jane Doe” remained without a name on both the Polk County (FL) list of unsolved homicides as well as the state’s missing persons list. She was buried in the Polk County Board of County Commissioners Shady Oaks Gardens Cemetery.
Back in Iowa, Peterson’s younger sister, Danielle Buxbaum, had grown increasingly frustrated after nearly two decades of unsuccessful searches for her lost sibling. She’d even called Florida before, but neither she nor anyone else knew for certain if Peterson had even made it to the state.
In a Des Moines Register article dated January 29, 2005, Buxbaum said relatives decided as a last resort to call Madrid authorities, and earlier that month had filed a missing persons report with the Boone County Sheriff’s Office. Based on the report, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office — with the assistance of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation — launched an investigation.
They began by searching Florida’s missing persons website, www.fluiddb.com, where they learned Florida officials had been attempting to identify an unknown homicide victim’s remains. The description matched that of Ronette Peterson.
- Courtesy photo Findagrave.com
- “Jane Doe” was buried in a county cemetery in Florida, and remained unidentified for nearly 19 years.
Iowa investigators contacted Polk County, Florida officials, and forwarded to them a set of Peterson’s known fingerprints. The positive match identified the 19-year Jane Doe as Ronette Lynn Peterson, and officials notified Ms. Peterson’s family.
On Wednesday, January 26, 2005, investigators from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida arrived in Iowa to meet with investigators from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa DCI agents.
Officials subsequently sought assistance from the public, asking anyone with information regarding Peterson’s activities to contact them. They were particularly interested in hearing from anyone who may have had contact with Peterson prior to May 7, 1986.
“This is good information, good renewable information that is going to generate some new leads hopefully and the investigators will pursue all those leads aggressively until they come up with the information needed to find a close to this case,” said Jim Saunders, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, in an interview with the Quad Cities’ Dispatch-Argus published Jan. 27, 2005.
Detectives learned that Peterson had traveled through Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida (possibly the Clearwater area) during the time period leading up to her death.
Anyone with information regarding Ronette Peterson’s unsolved homicide is urged to contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 281-5138 or the Boone County Sheriff’s Office at (515) 433-0524. You may also contact the Polk County (FL) Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit at (863) 298-6379.
- “The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Boone County Sheriff’s Office Seek Public Assistance in Homicide Investigation,” Iowa Dept. of Public Safety Press Release, Jan. 28, 2005.
- Polk County (FL) Sheriff’s Office
- I Care Missing Persons Cold Cases Forums
- “Woman killed in Florida in 1986 is Iowan,” Des Moines Register, Jan. 29, 2005
- “Investigators seek public help in 1986 slaying,” Quad-Cities Online, Jan. 27, 2005.
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