After decades, Kentucky police identify woman found dead in refrigerator near I-75

Provided by Kentucky State Police

For more than 30 years, a woman who was found strangled in a refrigerator near Interstate 75 in Kentucky has been referred to as a “Jane Doe.” On Monday, investigators released her real name.

In June 2017, Kentucky State Police asked the public for help after all leads in the woman’s death went cold. The news got around to a North Carolina family who thought the woman found in Knox County on April 1, 1985, may have been their relative, Espy Regina Black-Pilgrim.

Two state police investigators traveled to North Carolina to take DNA samples from people who believed they were the children of the woman who died. With assistance from the FBI, investigators were able to confirm that the woman found was Black-Pilgrim, according to state police.

Before Black-Pilgrim’s body was found, witnesses had reported seeing an unknown woman at a truck stop in Corbin who was asking for a ride to North Carolina, according to state police.

When Black-Pilgrim’s body was discovered in the Gray community, investigators tried to find out if her death was related to a string of women who were found dead near interstates in at least four states in the 1980s. The deaths were dubbed the “redhead murders” because three of the possible victims had red or reddish-brown hair, according to previous coverage.

The investigation of Black-Pilgrim’s murder is ongoing, and it is unclear if her death was related to any of the other women who were killed during that time, according to state police.

In September, another woman who was thought to have been killed in connection with the case was identified by state police in Tennessee. The woman found dead near Interstate 75 in Campbell County, Tenn., on Jan. 1, 1985, was positively identified as Tina Marie McKenney Farmer, 21, of Indiana, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Anyone with information related to this case is asked to call state police at 606-573-3131.