Dana Rosendale, Brittany, and her father in happier times
Dana and baby Brittany
Russell Adkins, a former bouncer who gave Dana a ride home the night she was found alongside Tracy Rd.
Roxy Pelow, friend of Dana's who accompanied her out the night she was fatally injured
Jenna Lee speaks with detectives about the unsolved mystery
(Toledo News Now) -
Update 1/29/14 - A major break in the case. Wood County Prosecutor's office announces that Dana's death has been ruled a homicide, more than 30 years after she was found dead.
Prosecutor Dobson says the autopsy findings add momentum to the cold case investigation being investigated by the Northwood Police Department.
He requests anyone with information regarding the death of Dana Rosendale contact the Northwood Police Department.
"Who makes that choice—that you don't grow up with a mom?"
One of many questions Brittany has wrestled with for the past 31 years. Her mother, Dana Rosendale is the center of a cold case recently cracked open in Wood County.
"She was a typical teenager. She was a free soul and spirit," said Brittany in her first on-camera interview about the case.
Dana's grown daughter has learned about her mother through unfinished baby books and an unnerving newspaper headline—it's the only way she knows how, her mother was taken from her when she was just 8 months old.
The story begins on September 5, 1982.
Dana set out for a night on the town with her best friend—a night meant to break free from homework and motherhood and instead dance the night away at South Side Roxy, a popular place for locals to cut loose in the 1980s to their favorite rock musicians. Instead—Dana died that night and ever since, what happened has been a mystery.
According to Wood County Investigator John Helm, on the night of September 5, Dana and her friend, Roxy Pelow, reaccepted a ride home from the club's bouncer, Russell Adkins. What happened after that is unclear.
"The other woman (Roxy Pelow) was dropped off in Michigan and then Dana came back down here," explained Helm.
"Here" was Dana's apartment on the corner of Felt Street on Toledo's east side. But Dana never made it there.
Instead, she was found unconscious alongside Tracy Road.
Helm says the call about Dana's body came in at 3:23 a.m. as a hit and run.
But how did she get there? And if it was a hit and run, who hit her?
Click here to explore an interactive map of the
points of interest in the Dana Rosendale case
The Northwood police report from when the incident occurred indicates the person who found her body went to the residence at 1916 Tracy Road to arouse someone inside; when no one answered, that person ran across the street to lot 22 of Trailer Court, to call police.
Police later found out the driver, Russell Adkins, the same man who'd driven Dana and Roxy home, left the scene. And then returned to the scene. He alleged that Rosendale fell out of the car.
The Lucas County Coroner ultimately ruled her death undetermined—because he didn't believe the teenager's injuries were consistent with the events of someone falling out of a vehicle.
After a lengthy investigation, witness interviews and statements, the case turned cold.
Dana's death made headlines, as seen
here in this news clipping from the Toledo Blade
Fast forward to present day, when a mother's death long ago haunts her now-adult daughter. She couldn't accept that her mother died under such mysterious circumstances without knowing more.
On her own, Brittany dug into the details of the case after finding explanations of what happened that night unsatisfying. She turned up clues and presented angles to investigators that compelled them to act as well.
More than three decades later and renewed persistence by Dana's daughter, the case has been re-opened. Police are turning their attention once again to the moments and mysteries of Saturday, September 5, 1982.
Both Russell Adkins and Roxy Pelow have been re-interviewed. However, police say they have remained uncooperative in the investigation.
Pelow didn't show up for a polygraph in January—and stayed in a back room when our cameras caught up with her in Sandusky. We were told there would be no comment.
So investigators turned to the source, the only key left in this case that could unlock the secrets of what happened: Dana's remains.
Exhumation of Dana's remains, October 2013
Family and friends surrounded Rosendale's gravesite last month as her body was exhumed—31 years after she died. An extreme measure police are banking on to break the case.
Right now, police are relying on advanced technology and a second autopsy to reveal what previously investigators were not able to uncover.
"Given the time that has elapsed since her death—they may be able to have better access to bone," Helm discussed as loved ones wiped tears from their eyes.
Investigators have yet to piece it all together. Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson told Jenna Lee in an interview that they are looking at an overall incident in this investigation - as opposed to an individual.
Says Dobson: "I haven't crossed out anything yet."
While the police work is far from over, Brittany is hopeful her mother's death investigation will lead to an arrest and conviction.
All Brittany wants is to know what happened to her mom.
"I will fight this until the day I'm gone. I will keep fighting because she can't fight for herself. She's gone."
Contact Information to Submit Tips
Paul Dobson, Wood County Prosecutor Wood County Prosecuting Attorney's Office One Courthouse Square Bowling Green, Ohio 43402 (419) 354-9250 firstname.lastname@example.org
John Helm, Investigator Wood County Prosecuting Attorney's Office One Courthouse Square Bowling Green, Ohio 43402 (419) 354-9250 email@example.com
Captain Jeff Zahradnik Northwood Police Department 6000 Wales Road Northwood, Ohio 43619 (419) 691-5053