Reet Jurvetson, a 19-year-old Canadian, arrived in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969 to visit a man she had met in a coffee shop.
“She was smitten by him,” LAPD cold case detective Lou Rivera, tells PEOPLE, saying the man’s name was either John or Jean, with the French pronunciation. “She told friends she was saving money so she could come visit him in L.A.”
Once she arrived, the brunette hippie decided to stay. She sent her parents a postcard saying she was happy and that she had found a nice apartment. She told them not to worry about her.
The postcard was the last they would hear from their daughter. Now, 46 years later, her family knows what happened to her – and cold case detectives are trying to determine who killed her.
‘As Months and then Years Passed, We Imagined She Was Making a New Life for Herself’
Reet was the youngest daughter of Estonian immigrants who fled for Canada during World War II. She grew up in Montreal during the 1950s and 1960s, where she sang in a youth choir and sewed her own clothes.
She was “very artistic,” her sister Anne said in a statement.
Reet developed a taste for adventure and freedom as a teen. After graduating high school, she moved to Toronto to live with her grandmother, where she found work at the post office and met John, or Jean, at a coffee shop before disappearing to L.A.
“As months and then years passed, we imagined that she was making a new life for herself,” wrote Anne. “As time passed, however, we received no more news. We were always hoping that she would re-establish contact with friends and family. But no one ever had any new information. However, not once did we suspect she had been killed.”
When a birdwatcher spotted a lifeless body dressed in a blue corduroy jacket, jeans and brown leather boots tangled in dense bush off L.A.’s picturesque Mulholland Drive, on November 16, 1969, the family was not notified. With no missing persons report filed, the police had no way of identifying the body. The case went cold.
The lifeless body, dubbed Jane Doe #59 by the coroner, had been stabbed in the neck more than 150 times.
“I don’t think robbery was a motive because she was still wearing her rings,” says Rivera, about the vicious attack. “It looked like rage,” he says. “It was a maniac or love gone wrong.”
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For much more on Jane Doe #59 and the search for other possible victims of the notorious Manson Family, pickup this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Was Killing Connected to Manson Family?
The timing and MO fueled speculation that the murder was connected to the notorious Manson Family killings. Just three months earlier, a few miles from where Reet’s body was found actress Sharon Tate and several others were viciously stabbed to death by the Manson Family.
Ruby Pearl, a caretaker at Spahn Ranch, the Manson Family hangout, told police that Jane Doe #59 looked like a hippie named Sherry from Simi Valley who hung out at the ranch, but nothing ever came of the tip.
Jane Doe #59’s identity remained a mystery for more than 46 years until last June when a friend of Reet’s who was searching crime websites saw Reet’s post-mortem photograph and called Anne, the sister, who then contacted law enforcement. DNA taken from the victim’s bloody bra matched Anne’s.
“Finally, after all these years, we are faced with hard facts,” said Anne. “My little sister was savagely killed. It was not what I wanted to hear. I can hardly grasp how she could have been stabbed over 150 times. It is devastating. I try to draw comfort from the coroner’s report that at least she was not raped, nor were there traces of drugs or alcohol in her system…. Nevertheless, I am horrified to think of how terribly frightened and alone she must have felt as she died.”
Anne wrote that her parents, now deceased, “never thought to report Reet missing to the police.”
“They thought that she was just living her life somewhere and that eventually news from her would turn up,” she wrote.
In October, detective Rivera and his partner detective Veronica Conrado interviewed Charles Manson in Corcoran Prison in California as part of the investigation of the case.
“No new leads were learned,” Rivera says, but he adds, “We can’t rule out that the Manson Family was involved.”
Rivera and Conrado are determined to solve Reet’s murder, and identify the mysterious man named John, or Jean, who Reet went to L.A. to visit.
“He is the best lead we have,” Rivera says. “No one deserves what happened to her. Someone might be out there who is responsible and it is our job to find out who it is and bring them to justice.”