Walker County Jane Doe is the name given to an unidentified murder victim and victim of an unsolved crime whose body was discovered on November 1, 1980, in Huntsville, Texas. She was aged between 14 and 20 at the time of her death, and her body was discovered within hours of her sexual assault, rape, and murder.
Despite initial efforts to discover both her identity and that of her murderer(s), the investigation into Walker County Jane Doe's murder gradually became a cold case. Nonetheless, the case remains open, and numerous efforts have been made to determine the identity of the decedent, including several forensic facial reconstructions of how she may have appeared in life.
This unidentified decedent became known as Walker County Jane Doe due to the county in which her body was discovered and where she was later buried in a donated casket.
On November 1, 1980, the nude body of a girl estimated to be between the ages of 14 and 20 was discovered by a truck driver who had been driving past the Sam Houston National Forest. She was lying face-down in an area of grass approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) from the shoulder of Interstate Highway 45, and just two miles north of Huntsville. This motorist called police at 9:20 a.m. to report his discovery.
The decedent had been deceased for approximately six hours, thus placing her time of death around 3:20 a.m. A rectangular brown pendant containing a smoky blue or brown glass colored stone on a thin gold chain necklace was found around her neck. Her ears were pierced, although no earrings were found in her ears nor at the crime scene. High-heeled red leather sandals with light brown straps, which investigators would subsequently discover the girl had been seen carrying while alive, were also recovered from the scene, although the remainder of her clothing was missing.
Walker County Jane Doe was approximately five feet six inches in height, weighed between 105 and 120 pounds, and was described by the Harris County Medical Examiner as being a "well-nourished" individual. Her eyes were hazel, and her hair was approximately 10 inches in length and light brown in color, with what has been described as a possible reddish tint, although her hair bore no evidence of having received color treatment. The decedent's fingernails were bare, and her toenails had been painted pink. Distinctive features upon her body were a vertical scar measuring one and a half inches at the edge of her right eyebrow and the fact that her right nipple was inverted. Due to the general condition of the decedent's body, including her overall health, nutrition and the excellent dental care she had received in life, Walker County Jane Doe may have hailed from a middle-class household.
The cause of death was certified by the coroner to be asphyxia due to ligature strangulation, possibly inflicted via a pantyhose, fragments of which—along with the decedent's underwear—were found inside the victim's vaginal cavity. The pantyhose and underwear had likely been placed inside the girl's vaginal cavity in an attempt to prevent her body from bleeding as she was transported to the site of her discovery as the girl had been sexually assaulted with a large blunt instrument both vaginally and anally, and these acts had occurred prior to her death. It is unknown if the girl had actually been conventionally raped, as no biological evidence attesting to this form of assault was discovered either at the crime scene or in the subsequent coroner's examination of her body. Furthermore, the girl had also been the recipient of a severe beating which had been inflicted prior to her death as many bruises were evident across her body, with her lips and right eyelid in particular being extensively swollen. In addition, the right shoulder of the decedent's body bore a deep and visible bite mark.
Following exhaustive witness appeals and extensive media accounts regarding this murder, numerous individuals (all of whom are now deceased) informed investigators they had seen a teenage girl matching the decedent's description within the 24 hours prior to her murder. These individuals include the manager of a South End Gulf station and two employees at the Hitch 'n' Post truck stop, all of whom described this girl as wearing blue jeans, a dirty yellow pullover, and a white knit sweater with noticeably large pockets which extended past her waist. This girl had been carrying red leather-strapped high heel sandals.
According to the first witness, the girl—appearing somewhat disheveled—had arrived at the South End Gulf station at approximately 6:30 p.m. on October 31. At this location, she had exited a blue 1973 or 1974 model Chevrolet Caprice with a light-colored top, which had been driven by a white male. This witness stated the girl had asked for directions to the Texas Department of Corrections Ellis Prison Farm. After receiving directions, the girl had left the Gulf station on foot, and was later seen walking north on Sam Houston Avenue.
This same girl was later seen at the Hitch 'n' Post truck stop alongside Interstate 45, where she again requested directions to the Texas Department of Corrections Ellis Prison Farm, claiming "a friend" was waiting for her at this location. In response, a waitress drew a map providing directions to the prison farm which she then handed to the girl. This waitress informed investigators that she had suspected the girl was a runaway and that in their brief conversation, the girl had informed her she was from either Rockport or Aransas Pass, Texas. The girl had also claimed to this waitress that she was 19 years old; when the waitress had expressed doubts as to her claimed age and further asked if her parents knew her whereabouts, this girl had reportedly replied, "Who cares?"
Ellis Prison Farm
Both inmates and employees of the Ellis Prison Farm were canvassed and shown mortuary photographs of the victim, although none were able to identify her. Investigators also traveled to both the Rockport and Aransas Pass districts to converse with law enforcement personnel regarding any missing females whose physical description matched that of the decedent. Staff at schools in both districts were also contacted by investigators for the same purpose, and numerous Texas high school books were searched for any female known to be missing whose physical features matched her description. All these lines of inquiry failed to bear fruition, and no subsequent missing person reports pertaining to young Caucasian females have ever been matched to the decedent.
Despite the fact police and media appeals in the towns of Rockport or Aransas Pass to discover the identity of Walker County Jane Doe failed to produce any fruitful leads as to her identity, it is believed the girl may have indeed hailed from the general region she had stated to the waitress at the Hitch 'n' Post truck stop the evening prior to her murder.
On January 16, 1981, Walker County Jane Doe was buried in the Adickes Addition at Oakwood Cemetery. Her burial followed an open-casket funeral, and the cemetery in which she was interred is located within the town where her body was found. She is buried beneath a tombstone donated by Morris Memorials; the inscription upon her tombstone reads, "Unknown white female. Died Nov. 1, 1980."
Walker County Sheriff's Office Detective Thomas Bean referring to the murder of Walker County Jane Doe and the mindset of her murderer. March 4, 2018.
Further forensic analysis
The remains of Walker County Jane Doe were exhumed in 1999 in order to conduct a further forensic examination of her remains, including the obtaining of a DNA sample from her body. This second forensic examination of her body revised the likely age of Walker County Jane Doe to be between 14 and 18 years old.
In November 2015, the case was officially reopened by the Walker County Sheriff's Office.
DNA testing has also been conducted upon the high-heeled red leather sandals found at the crime scene; the results of this testing remain undisclosed. Local police departments have also actively monitored other missing person reports for potential matches to the decedent. Investigators have also reached out to the public via various online websites, news media and television networks in hopes of generating further leads of inquiry—all of which, to date, have been unsuccessful in identifying either Walker County Jane Doe or her murderer(s).
Several forensic facial reconstructions have been created to illustrate estimations of how Walker County Jane Doe may have looked in life. In 1990, forensic and portrait artist Karen T. Taylor created a composite drawing of Walker County Jane Doe in which she incorporated an estimation as to the appearance of the necklace she had been wearing. An investigator at the Walker County Sheriff's office has also created a facial rendering of the decedent.
Karen Taylor has included this case in her book Forensic Art and Illustration, in which she confessed to having experienced difficulties in creating her sketch of the decedent as the only frontal photograph made available to her at the time was of one taken after the victim had received extensive reconstructive cosmetic treatment at the Huntsville Funeral Home in order for her facial features to be sufficient to be viewed in an open-casket funeral. Taylor further explained that a scaled photograph of the girl's necklace was not made available to her, and she was forced to guess at the size of this item of jewelry for the facial reconstruction she produced.
In more recent years, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has constructed and released two facial reconstructions of how Walker County Jane Doe may have appeared in life. The first facial reconstruction was released in 2012 and the second shortly after the 35th anniversary of her murder. This second facial reconstruction was created with the aid of studying mortuary photographs taken of the decedent.
In December 2015, a photograph surfaced of a white female, aged approximately 14 years old and 5 feet 4 inches in height and whose other physical characteristics also closely match those of Walker County Jane Doe. The girl depicted in the image is a possible runaway named "Cathleen" or "Kathleen" who may have hailed from Corpus Christi. This photograph emerged after a brother and sister reviewed a private collection of images taken of themselves—then aged 12 and 10—at a motel in Beeville, Texas in the summer of 1980. These siblings had encountered this girl at the motel in question and recall both that she may have lived with a couple at the time the image was taken, and that she had expressed her wishes to meet a friend from Sugarland Prison. Both of these siblings sincerely believe that Cathleen (or Kathleen) may actually be Walker County Jane Doe.
A photograph of this girl, plus additional details of her physical characteristics and the circumstances surrounding the caption of this image, currently exist upon the Facebook page "Who Was Walker County Jane Doe?" This image and details pertaining to its caption are accompanied by appeals to the public to help provide the girl's full name and origins—all of which can be anonymously submitted to law enforcement should the sender wish to do so. Primarily, appeals are made to any individual who attended any elementary or middle school within Corpus Christi in the 1960s and/or 1970s who may recognize the girl in this photograph. Cathleen (or Kathleen) was most likely born in 1966, although her precise year of birth is unknown.
Gender of perpetrator
Some individuals have theorized that Walker County Jane Doe may have actually been assaulted and murdered by a female assailant as opposed to a male. This theory was initially suggested by a journalist named Michael Hargraves, who based this assumption upon the fact that no semen was found upon or within the body of Walker County Jane Doe, or at the actual crime scene, and that the only sexual assaults conclusively proven to have been committed upon the girl were performed by aggressively forcing an object or objects into her bodily orifices. Hargraves elaborated his theory by stating that men who commit crimes of a sexual nature are typically known to bite their victims upon sensitive areas of the body as opposed to the shoulder, as had occurred in this case.
The act of male perpetrators of murders committed with a sexual motivation occasionally collecting souvenirs from their victims was also noted to be inconsistent with this case, as the necklace the girl had worn was still present upon her body. However, the fact that it is unknown if Walker County Jane Doe had worn other items of jewelry at the time of her murder, and that her ears were pierced yet her earlobes held no earrings may negate this portion of Hargraves' theory. Furthermore, most of the girl's clothing was missing from the crime scene.
Links to other murders
A possibility exists that Walker County Jane Doe may have been murdered by the same perpetrator as a formerly unidentified murder victim, known as "Orange Socks", who was murdered almost exactly a year before Walker County Jane Doe and whose body was found in Georgetown, Texas. Serial killer Henry Lee Lucas has been named as a possible suspect in this case, although a bite mark found upon the girl's shoulder was inconsistent with Lucas's dentistry. No prime suspects have been named in this murder, although police have considered the possibility that the victim was murdered by a serial killer.
In 2017, a theory arose that Walker County Jane Doe may have been killed by the same perpetrator known to have murdered three other females in 1980 whose bodies were also discarded alongside Interstate 45. Only one of these four victims has been identified, and all had been strangled. All four decedents have been described by investigators as being "high risk" victims. One of these females, aged between 20 and 30, was located on October 15 in Houston. She was a black female with possible Asian heritage, and had died months prior to the discovery of her body. The second female was also black; her body was discovered beneath a bridge in Houston. She was aged between 16 and 26 years old at the time of her murder.
The information thus far compiled by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System states the following individuals have been positively excluded as being Walker County Jane Doe.
|Name||Birth date||Missing Date||Location||Age at time of murder of Walker County Jane Doe||Circumstances|
|Joyce Brewer||January 24, 1955||September 6, 1970||Grand Prairie, Texas||25||Brewer is believed to have run away from home with a boyfriend following an argument with her parents.|
|Mary Trlica||November 15, 1957||December 23, 1974||Fort Worth, Texas||22||Apparently abducted with two friends while Christmas shopping. Within days of Trlica's disappearance, a letter was mailed to her husband claiming she and her companions were traveling to Houston. This letter was written by a right-handed person, whereas Trlica was left-handed.|
|Wendy Eaton||May 26, 1959||May 17, 1975||Media, Pennsylvania||21||Eaton disappeared in Media, Pennsylvania while walking to purchase a gift for her brother. Her case remains unsolved.|
|Maria Anjiras||August 10, 1961||February 12, 1976||Norwalk, Connecticut||19||A girl who ran away from her home in 1976. Anjiras had taken money and personal possessions with her. Anjiras is known to have threatened to run away from home a few weeks prior to her disappearance, although on this occasion, her father had dissuaded her from doing so.|
|Cindy King||July 27, 1961||July 19, 1977||Grants Pass, Oregon||19||King disappeared in July 1977. She had worn a retainer when she disappeared and had a notable scar near one of her temples, like the Walker County Jane Doe.|
|Tina Kemp||October 20, 1964||February 3, 1979||Felton, Delaware||16||Last seen leaving her home after helping to hang the family laundry. Kemp has never been heard from since, and is believed to have been murdered.|
|Kimberly Rae Doss||September 11, 1962||May 29, 1979||Jacksonville, Florida||18||Vanished while visiting a relative. Speculation remains she may have been abducted by a motorcycle gang, although no direct evidence exists to support this theory. Ross had markedly similar physical characteristics to Walker County Jane Doe.|
|Angela Meeker||July 9, 1965||July 7, 1979||Tacoma, Washington||15||Meeker vanished two days before her 14th birthday. She was last seen at a party. Her physical appearance is markedly similar to the Walker County Jane Doe.|
|Karen Zendrosky||September 2, 1963||October 23, 1979||Bordentown Township, New Jersey||17||Zendrosky disappeared from a now defunct bowling alley. Her disappearance remains unsolved, although investigators strongly suspect foul play in her case, believing the most likely location of Zendrosky's body to be a sludge pit located in Hamilton.|
|Deborah McCall||March 30, 1963||November 5, 1979||Downers Grove, Illinois||17||Last seen departing from her school in Downers Grove, Illinois. McCall had markedly similar physical characteristics as the decedent.|
|Marie Blee||April 16, 1964||November 21, 1979||Craig, Colorado||16||Blee was last seen at a party in the company of a male friend. Foul play is suspected to be the reason behind her disappearance.|
|Kristy Lynn Booth||December 26, 1960||February 2, 1980||Midland, Texas||19||A 19 year old waitress last seen at a nightclub. Investigators do not believe Booth left this nightclub willingly. Her vehicle was later found abandoned on South Highway 349.|
|Rachael Garden||December 30, 1964||March 22, 1980||Newton, New Hampshire||15||Likely abducted while walking from a store toward the home of a friend with whom she intended to spend the night. She was last seen talking to three male acquaintances of hers (one of whom later served a sentence for assault and rape) who had been seated in a dark-colored vehicle.|
|Laureen Rahn||April 3, 1966||April 26, 1980||Manchester, New Hampshire||14||Rahn is believed to have been abducted either from or within the close proximities of her home on the evening of her disappearance. She did not take her purse, shoes or any additional clothing; likely indicating she had been abducted from her home via force or guile.|
|Roxane Easland||c. 1956||June 28, 1980||Anchorage, Alaska||24||A prostitute and erotic dancer who disappeared after leaving her apartment to meet with an unidentified male client on Northern Lights Boulevard. She is believed to have been murdered by serial killer Robert Hansen.|
|Carla Corley||December 31, 1965||August 12, 1980||Birmingham, Alabama||14||Corley is believed to have been abducted from her home. Her mother discovered the family's front door ajar and evident signs of a struggle within their kitchen. She was declared legally dead several years after her disappearance.|
Cited works and further reading
- Evans, Colin (1996). The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's Most Baffling Crimes. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 978-0-471-07650-6.
- Finkelhor, David; Sedlak, Andrea; Hotaling, Gerald T. (1990). Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children in America. New York: Officers of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. ISBN 0-788-12651-2.
- Halber, Deborah (2015). The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-451-65758-6.
- Newton, Michael (2004). The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 978-0-816-07818-9.
- Pettem, Silvia (2013). Cold Case Research: Resources for Unidentified, Missing, and Cold Homicide Cases. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 1-466-57053-9.
- Strand, Ginger (2012). Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-72637-6.
- Taylor, Karen T. (2000). Forensic Art and Illustration. New York: CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-849-38118-8.