The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), in conjunction with other agencies, has identified the “Nation River Lady” and charged an individual in connection with her death.

On May 3, 1975, the remains of a woman were found in the South Nation River, a short distance from the Highway 417 bridge near Casselman. During the intervening 48 years, forensic artist’s renderings and a 3-D facial approximation (2017), a dedicated tip line and descriptions of evidence accompanied several public appeals for information by the OPP to identify the victim and any potential suspects without success.

In late 2019, a new DNA profile of the victim was obtained by the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto and submitted to a specialized lab in the United States. Through whole genome sequencing, the samples matched those collected from two individuals listed in a family DNA tree.

In 2020, the victim was subsequently identified as 48-year-old Jewell ‘Lalla’ Langford (née Parchman). This is believed to be the first case in Canada of this nature to identify human remains through Forensic Genealogy.

“For 47 years, Jewell Langford’s family did not know where she was or if they would ever learn what happened to her. As science and technology progressed over the years and with continued collaboration by all investigating organizations, we were finally able to answer those questions. Our work is about finding the truth for families like Jewell’s and never giving up regardless of the passage of time,” said Chief Coroner of Ontario, Dr. Dirk Huyer.

Jewell was a prominent member of the Jackson, Tennessee business community who had co-owned a spa with her ex-husband. She was born in March 1927 and had travelled to Montréal in April of 1975. She never returned home and her family in Tennessee at that time had reported her missing. In March of 2022, the remains of Jewell LANGFORD were repatriated to the United States followed by a memorial service and burial.

With the victim identified, the OPP investigators worked with the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) to examine evidence gathered decades before related to the unsolved missing person case. A lengthy investigation ensued — involving the OPP, SPVM, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario (OCCO) and the Canadian and U.S. Departments of Justice — leading to a criminal charge on an individual residing in Hollywood, Florida.

Rodney Nichols, aged 81, is charged with Murder. The accused and the victim were known to each other.

While the charge was formally laid before the court late last year, at the Ontario Court of Justice in L’Orignal, the OPP did not announce this publicly at the time. Prematurely sharing developments in the investigation could have jeopardized the investigation and ensuing court processes, including potential extradition from the United States.

The OPP would like to acknowledge and thank past and present members of the OPP for their investigative diligence over the years. We would also acknowledge members of the Centre of Forensic Sciences, the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario (OCCO), SPVM, the FBI in Tennessee and Florida and their respective victim specialist teams and the genetic genealogy team at the DNA Doe Project for their important contributions to bring resolution to Jewell’s family.

“Thanks to advances in genetic genealogy science and the collective commitment of all of the investigators involved, we have brought resolution to the families and friends of this missing person who met with foul play. We can be satisfied with the results of this investigation and that we were able to return Jewell Langford’s remains to her loved ones,” said Detective Inspector Daniel Nadeau, Major Case Manager, OPP Criminal Investigation Branch.

Jewell Langford was born on March 30, 1927. The Tennessee woman went missing on April 22, 1975 on a trip to Montréal. Her body was found in the South Nation River near Casselman on May 3, 1975. Submitted photo
Jewell Langford’s body was found in the South Nation River on May 3, 1975 near where Highway 417 crosses the river outside Casselman. Photo: James Morgan