Judy Gifford was just fourteen years of age when she was last seen in San Francisco, California on January 1, 1974. Judy had moved to San Francisco in summer of 1976 to live with her father, and her half-brother William Shin, who was six at the time of her disappearance. Unbeknownst to her family, friends and law enforcement, on October 1, 1976, a man discovered a hand protruding from the sand behind a pumping station in Lake Merced. It would take 43 years to learn her identity. Those remains were named Jane Doe No. 40, and the cause of death was listed as a murder, with a manner of death being strangulation.
Generations later, Judy's half-brother, William Shin remembered having a sister when he was a child, and reached out to the San Francisco Police Department. The missing persons report was then filed, back in 2017. Family DNA was later collected, along with a picture of Judy wearing an owl pendant hanging from a gold chain - one that later would prove to show Jane Dow No. 40 was wearing when her remains were located.
Shin was told that Judy was moving to New Jersey to live with her aunt who had previously been looking after her, but when he was eighteen, he visited his aunt in Southampton, New Jersey and found that Judy had never returned.
Thanks to NAMUS, the San Francisco Police Department, and the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit, their persistence paid off. It is believed that Judy was buried only six inches below the surface of sandy soil, about twenty feet from the lake shore.
Judy's aunt that submitted her DNA in 2017, Ogee Gifford kept the same number all these years in case her niece Judy ever called. Police called her to let her know that Judy was finally identified, and can be given a proper goodbye.
The San Francisco Police Department are still actively investigating Judy's murder.
Judy's brother Will sent a message in 2019 to Websleuths to share information. Here is his post:
I'm going to start with 1953. My Aunt Ogee was 18 years old. She worked at Yongsan U.S. Army base at the small PX. There she met and married an American soldier name John Gifford. Uncle John Gifford hailed from New Jersey. With her husband, Aunt Ogee raised up two sons, John jr. and James.
Now, Aunt Ogee had three brothers:
There was Big Uncle who was 5 years older than her.
Then my Aunt Ogee.
My dad Mike who was 2 years younger than her.
And finally Little Uncle Roy who was about 6 years younger than her. He's only little in age, not in height. Among the siblings, he's the tallest, standing at 6'.
At one time, I was told that Aunt Ogee had 8 siblings, but the Korean War and post-Korean War death tolls claimed the lives of her father and five of her siblings. So surviving family were her mother, herself, and her three brothers.
Fast forward to approximately 1960-1961. My dad marries a woman, and together they produce a daughter, Judy Shin, who was born in 1962.
Not long after that, because Uncle John Gifford and Aunt Ogee PCS'd to Hawaii and then eventually Fort Dix, NJ, Aunt Ogee's entire family moved with her:
Her widowed mother,
Big Uncle with his wife and children,
Little Uncle Roy
My father did not follow his siblings and his mother. He had a difficult time convincing his wife to move to America. For whatever reasons, she did not want to move to America but wanted to stay in Korea. So they filed a divorce. By Korean custom in a divorce situation, the father has custody of any children. So with Judy in tow, my father caught up with his sister (Aunt Ogee) in Hawaii. This would have been around 1962 or 1963.
In order to expedite U.S. Citizenship, my father decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. As a single father serving in the Army, he could not care for his daughter well. So Aunt Ogee took care of looking after Judy while Dad was in training, deployed to Vietnam, etc. Because of legal issues that my Aunt Ogee and Uncle John Gifford ran into while looking after Judy (e.g. enrolling Judy in school required parental approval), they thought it best to adopt Judy while Dad was still Single. The plan was that they would look after and raise Judy themselves until Dad was able to find another wife and settle down. So somewhere around 1963/1964 (I'm guessing), Uncle John Gifford and Aunt Ogee legally adopted Judy. She had her last name changed from Judy Shin to Judy Gifford.
Somewhere around 1968-ish, my father is stationed in Yongsan Army base. He meets my mother, Sunny, and they get married around 1969. I am born in 1970. My sister, Susan, is born in 1972.
As is expected of military family life, we moved around a great deal. My father's final duty station was at the Presidio of San Francisco, before he was medically discharged. We lived at the Park Merced community somewhere around 1974 to 1977. At that time, Park Merced served as military enlisted housing for Presidio Army soldiers and Treasure Island Navy sailors, and the Army/Navy Commissary was part of Stonestown Plaza.
Around 1974, Uncle John Gifford passed away early from a heart attack while hunting with his friends. That left Aunt Ogee to raise up three children by herself.
In 1976, having no strong father figure in her life, 14yo Judy began misbehaving. According to Aunt Ogee, Judy's school grades were dropping, she was rebelling against her adoptive mother, she was sneaking out of the house at nights, and she was getting herself into trouble with law enforcement.
So Aunt Ogee felt that it was time for Judy to now return back to her biological father, as originally agreed upon that the adoption would only be temporary - to give time for my father to find a new wife and settle down. So my Aunt Ogee and Judy flew out to San Francisco in the Summer of 1976. After a brief stay, Aunt Ogee flew back to N.J., leaving behind Judy under her biological father's care.
I have only two event memories of Judy when she was with us in S.F.
A trip to the S.F. Zoo, where an argument had occurred between my father and Judy.
A phone call of Judy crying to Aunt Ogee that she wanted to fly back to N.J. to be with Aunt Ogee. And Aunt Ogee telling her that she needed to learn to love her biological father.
For me, I was told that "Cousin" Judy flew back to Aunt Ogee. My parents never told me that Judy was my half-sister. In 1988, when I was 18yo, I visited Aunt Ogee. It was the first time we had seen each other since 1976. I asked her where was "Cousin" Judy, her daughter? That is when she told me the story of Judy Gifford. But she thought Judy had ran away.
She had lived in that same house just outside of Fort Dix, NJ for over 40 years with the same house phone number because she hoped and prayed that Judy just might somehow show up at her house or call her. She was afraid that if she moved or changed her phone number, that it could prevent Judy from ever knowing how to get a hold of her. And during the last 40+ years, Aunt Ogee has lived with deep regret and remorse over the phone conversation that she had with Judy. She wishes that she did not rebuff Judy's cries of wanting to fly back to N.J. and live with her, but instead would have said, "Yes, come on back. I'll buy the airplane ticket right now."
This is the tragic story of the short lived life of Judy Shin / Gifford.
Unfortunately, the story remains an unfinished tragic story. The chapters of "Whereabouts Unknown / Missing Persons" and "Identifying S.F. Jane Doe #40" have now concluded. A final chapter of Judy's story has begun: "Whodunit? Who killed Judy Gifford and Why?" SFPD has shared their thoughts with both my sister and me. Both my sister and I are fully supportive of SFPD's efforts to finding justice for Judy. Until then, at least my family has closure knowing
Until then, at least my family has closure in knowing that she did decease. We just did not expect to hear that her death was so close in time to when she had just arrived in 1976 and so close in location of just a mile or two from our house in Park Merced.
My Aunt is still in shock and is still trying to process everything.
Actually, we all are.
My younger sister, Susan, has suddenly felt grief and loss over a half-sister that she has no memory of ever meeting or knowing. Up to this point, she had no feelings or thoughts about Judy because of that lack of memory or any emotional connection. But she was sharing with me that after the face-to-face interview with the SFPD detectives a couple of weeks ago, she felt a new degree of sadness over Judy's death and all the backdrop story leading up to it.
We both realized that this is the kind of tragic story that we read about in books and the Bible, we watch in movies, or we hear about on the news regarding other people's lives. So to hear that such an event unfolded within our own immediate family, it brings about a new reality of life that we never personally experienced - death. And not just any sort of death that is impersonal (e.g. earthquake, cancer, military war, etc.), but this one is deeply personal - death of one of our immediate family members by the hands of someone else.
We thank God for His kindness in finally revealing all this to us, after 43 years. As well, we are... and personally I am... deeply indebted and grateful to the excellent work by SFPD, particularly Sergeant Christopher Long, Sergeant Andrea Creed, and Detective Dedit (retired). After talking with Detective Dedit, I know that he is still actively working the case from his angle of "whodunit." If solving this from that angle is possible, that would be absolutely great, as that would close out the final chapter to Judy's story. But if not, my family has closure and peace in knowing Judy's situation.
Thank you for taking the time in reading my ramblings. I hope my ramblings make some sense.
If you have any information on Judy's disappearance or death, we urge you to contact the San Francisco Police Department at (415) 575-444 or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
While the handling of missing persons were so different back in the 70's, 80's and even the 90's, please know that many identifications have been made nationwide throughout these generations. If you know someone who needs to be reported missing, please stop hesitating, and call your local police to ensure someone is looking for them. For those of you that have, please take Judy's story as one of hope. Never giving up is key not only for the peace of loved ones, but peace for the missing person. Information accumulated by: