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Help sought to solve 41-year-old equestrian cold case

Jane Andre Cotta, left, around the time of disappearance in 1973, and how she might look around 2012, through the use of age progression software.

Jane Andre Cotta, left, around the time of disappearance in 1973, and how she might look around 2012, through the use of age progression software.

What happened to avid rider Jane Andre Cotta? That question has been unanswered for 41 years and authorities are pushing again to get answers in the New Jersey cold case.

Cotta, the eldest of eight children, was 19 years old and seven months pregnant when her younger brother and one of his friends saw her inside a barn and tack room on her family’s property in the Allenwood section of Wall Township.

That moment in 1973 was the last time anyone in her family saw the 19-year-old, who was described as an avid equestrian.

Wall Township police chief Robert Brice said authorities are once again asking for help in solving the mystery.

He said the investigation by local, county, state and federal law enforcement, as well as private investigators, included roughly 260 interviews in five states.

Now, rewards totaling up to $US10,000 are available for information leading to the finding of Cotta or her remains, or the arrest of the person responsible for her disappearance.

Brice said Cotta and her family had lived in Spring Lake Heights before they moved to Wall, where Cotta began participating in the 4-H Club.

In 1971 she was elected vice-president of the Jumping Brook Riders 4-H Club.

Horses were her passion, he said.

“She rode for pleasure, was involved in competitions, and went to training facilities.

“She attended the Morven Park International Equestrian Institute in Leesburg, Virginia, and the Princeton Riding Academy. She provided riding lessons at her family’s property on Ridgewood Road.”

Cotta was last seen by her brother, Brian Cotta, and his friend between 11.30pm and midnight on June 26, 1973.

The next day, Dorothy Cotta reported her daughter missing.

An investigation was launched but could not account for the fate of the teenager. There were  follow-ups by police in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

Since 2004, several members of the Wall Township Police Department have helped with the investigation, Brice said.

In addition, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey State Police, US Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children assisted.

Between 2004 and 2006, investigators conducted about 250 interviews in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Florida.

Brice said investigators remained determined to identify anyone else who may have knowledge about Cotta during the time of her disappearance.

In addition, investigators are still trying to identify a man named Eric Shore – the proper spelling of his name is uncertain – who was reported to be about 40 years old at the time of Cotta’s disappearance. He was believed to be from Staten Island or Long Island.

It was also reported that his girlfriend at the time was employed as a hairdresser in Deal, New Jersey.

The latest investigation has used advanced technology, including computer searches, age progression and a DNA comparison of Cotta’s genetic makeup to those of unidentified remains.

Cotta was around 5 feet 4 inches tall at the time of her disappearance and weighed about 118 pounds. She had brown hair, blue eyes and a mole near the left side of her mouth.

She was last seen wearing blue Land Lubbers jeans, a white shirt with a blue design on it, and brown loafers. She was carrying a round tweed purse.

According to the Charley Project, which carries details on 9000 cold cases around the United States, a vehicle was heard driving away from the farm shortly after she was last seen.

Cotta, who had a club left foot and lazy eye at the time of her disappearance, was not involved in drugs and did not drink alcohol.

She had not revealed the father of her unborn baby and he remains unknown.

Cotta wrote a letter to God before she disappeared in which she referred to the baby’s father, but did not identify him. In the letter, she said she was giving three of her favorite horses to a friend.

The circumstances suggest she may have left voluntarily – at least initially.

Both her parents have since died, but her siblings still want to learn of her fate.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential telephone tip-line by calling 1-800-671-4400; text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, email a tip via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.

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