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Authorities are asking Northwest Indiana residents to help identify a woman who was shot in the head and dumped not far from I-80 in western Grundy County, Illinois, more than 20 years ago.

A farmer found the woman's body Oct. 2, 1976, in a ditch along U.S. 6 in rural Seneca, about a quarter mile east of the LaSalle County line. Her death was ruled a homicide.

The Grundy County Sheriff's Department and Illinois State Police investigated, but the woman was buried after several weeks when identification could not be made, according to the Grundy County coroner's office.

"I've known about this unidentified female since I started in the coroner's office in 1994, and it has troubled me that someone's loved one is buried here and was never identified," Grundy County Coroner John Callahan said.

Deputy Coroner Brandon Johnson said a group of psychics recently said it believed the woman may have been from Gary.

Investigators are keeping an open mind and aren't ruling out any possibilities, Johnson said. 

The woman was described as 18 to 23 years old, black, 5 foot 7 to 5 foot 9, 130 to 150 pounds. She had brown eyes, a scar on her right hip and a possible birthmark on her lower right abdomen.

It was estimated the woman died about one day before her body was found. 

She was found nude. Her head was covered with a green plastic bag bound with electrical tape and wrapped with a red, white and black knit sweater.

Authorities released her photo to a Chicago newspaper and submitted her fingerprints to the FBI and other crime labs, but received no results. 

Johnson has spent more than a year re-examining the case.

The coroner's office plans to exhume the woman's body in spring in an attempt to gather DNA evidence. Investigators have followed up on several recent leads, but the woman remains unidentified.

"This is someone's loved one," Johnson said. "Whether it be a mother, daughter, sister, cousin or friend.

Anyone with possible information about the woman's identity is asked to call Johnson at 815-941-3359 or email bjohnson@grundyco.org. Visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/grundycountycoldcase.

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Public Safety Reporter

Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.