Monday, March 30, 2015

It's personal: The Walker County Jane Doe

2015 reconstruction of the victim by NCMEC

This post contains sensitive details of violence that may be disturbing or triggering to some individuals.

In Huntsville, Walker County, Texas, on November 1, 1980, the face-down, naked body of a teenage girl was found lying near a highway. She'd been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled. The victim's face was bruised and her mouth was ajar, as if her jaw had been broken. It's been thirty-four years and nobody knows who this arguably stunningly beautiful young woman was.

I usually refrain from writing about violent cases such as this on this blog, but this case is perhaps the closest unsolved murder to me and has made a significant impact on my life ever since I discovered it. I've shed countless tears and spent hours researching, hoping that we will someday be able to call her something other than "Jane Doe."

Walker County Jane Doe was a teenager, approximately fourteen to twenty. Upon the time of her death, she was at a healthy weight and appeared to have been raised in a middle-class household. She was found wearing a "smokey glass pendant" on a gold chain around her neck and a pair of reddish sandals with high-heels were carelessly thrown near her body.

The age and beauty of this victim is definitely a major factor to why I feel so close to this case. I am also determined to see it solved due to another thing - that she was brutally murdered. Walker County Jane Doe was beaten severely, as I mentioned before, but there is another gruesome detail - her killer had bitten her near the back of her shoulder. I'm disgusted by this; as it obviously wasn't enough to sexually assault and savagely abuse this poor girl. I hope one day I'll know who the son-of-a-bitch was, so I can see him pay for this heinous crime.

Researching about the unidentified fascinates me, as I crave to learn more about these mysterious people and to possibly help others find out who they were.The down side is that I often times come across images of bodies, many with strained expressions, such as this victim. For the longest time, I couldn't bear to see the face of this girl's body, which appears peaceful from the nose up, but illustrates a damaged neck and a gaping mouth, slanted open toward the left side. Some color photos are also available, which adds more grief, as anyone can notice the bruises. I often times cry when  I see these pictures, as it is truly horrifying how Walker County Jane Doe died.

A peculiar detail in the case is that it is believed that Walker County Jane Doe was seen alive the night before her murder. A girl matching her description was seen being dropped off by a man in a blue truck at a gas station.

The girl appeared to be a runaway; she appeared to have been sleeping in the clothes she was wearing. She carried high heeled sandals, similar to what were found next to the body of the Jane Doe. The girl spoke to the manager and requested directions to the Ellis Prison Unit, where she claimed she wished to visit a friend. It is unknown if this "friend" was a prisoner or a staff member. Either way, nobody could identify the girl when pictures of the victim were shown in the facility.

The girl had also been seen at the Hitch 'N' Post truck stop, which no longer exists, where she asked a waitress to draw her a map to the same prison unit. The waitress asked her age and expressed her doubts when the girl said she was nineteen. After the waitress asked where the girl's parents were, she was given the answer "who cares," which indicated that the Jane Doe was a runaway who was angry at her parents. The waitress also stated that the girl could have been from the towns of Aransas Pass or Rockport, both of which are located in Texas.

Debbie  McCall compared to a reconstruction of the Jane Doe
I personally am blown away that no missing girls were reported missing from either location that bore a resemblance to the victim. In fact, there are no missing girls from Texas at the time period that the Walker County Jane Doe was found that match her description. Those who did have long since been eliminated from the case as potential identities.

Awhile back, I came across the case of Deborah "Debbie" McCall from Downers Grove, Illinois. She has been missing nearly a year before the unidentified body was found. She matched the physical description, apart from eye color and even wore a gold chain around her neck, like the victim. The difference in eye color could be due to a mistake made by either the medical examiner or by the missing person report as well as clouding that may have occurred in the eyes after death, which does happen. Sometimes, eyes change color due to lighting, as I experience myself, as my eyes are blue but have turned green in bright sunlight.

Second comparison (middle image by Karen T. Taylor)

Debbie has been excluded from the case, yet I still believe there could be a chance that she could have been accidentally ruled out, as I've seen such a thing happen before. I'm not sure what method was used for the exclusion, but I believe that DNA should be compared between the two if it hasn't been already, as this method is the most precise way to exclude individuals.

I hope one day I'll be able to call this girl by her real name. I know thirty-four years is a long time, but old cases aren't hopeless. Most recently, the case of Tammy Alexander, which I've written about before was solved after thirty-five years. Another includes a man, Robert Daniel Corriveau, identified forty-four years after his death in 1968.

One thing that everyone needs to realize is that missing people need to be reported. Countless cases have been solved after someone makes the decision to file a report years and sometimes decades late. If you've lost touch with a friend: look for them on the web. If you're estranged from a family member whom nobody has heard from in a long period of time, do the same. If all else fails, file a report. You might just put to rest a mystery that appears unsolvable.