Woman known as 'belle in the well' has ties to Parkersburg

Published: Jul. 30, 2019 at 7:01 PM EDT
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The southern hills of Lawrence County, Ohio have long been home to a legend.

Sharon Mayberry has lived near the Willow Wood area for over 50 years. She first heard about the story of the 'belle in the well' when she moved there and over the years she has often wondered about her.

As the story goes, in April 1981, a woman was found in a well just down the road. Her cause of death was strangulation. Investigators estimate that her body was in the well for about one to two years. A cinder block was tied around her neck with a rope to weigh her down.

38 years later, the Lawrence County Coroners Office had a press conference Monday finally revealing her identity. Her name was Louise Virginia Peterson Flesher. She was born in 1915 in West Virginia. At some point, the woman moved to Wyoming where she went to high school and had a family. Her husband’s name was Donald Benjamin Flesher. She had three daughters. Two are still living. By 1944, she returned to West Virginia and lived in Parkersburg.

It was a long and winding road to finally identify this Jane Doe. In 2017, the Lawrence County Coroners Office teamed up with the DNA Doe Project. They used DNA from her tooth and genealogy to be able to find her youngest daughter.

County Coroner Ben Mack says the mystery surrounding her identity wouldn't have been solved without this cutting-edge technology.

According to representatives from the DNA Doe Project, the identification effort took thousands of hours, more than 30 volunteers helped and they reviewed over 40,000 family trees.

At this point, the sheriff says there are no suspects. They ask anyone who might have known something about this crime to reach out to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.