OPELIKA, Ala. (WAVY) – Investigators in a decade-old Alabama murder case are asking people in Hampton Roads for help.
“We have since then been looking all over the country,” said Opelika Police Captain Johnathan Clifton. “We’ve received tips and leads from Arizona, to New Jersey .. to Orlando, Florida and now we’re in your area.”
It has been more than 10 years since Opelika Jane Doe’s remains were found and the little girl still doesn’t have a name.
“We’re not going to leave any stone unturned,” Clifton said. “We need to know her name, she deserves a name.”
Opelika Jane Doe’s remains were found behind a trailer park on Hurst Street in Opelika, Alabama on Jan. 28, 2012. It’s about a half mile off of I-85.
“Some neighbors saw some skeletal remains and they called the police,” Clifton said.
Investigators believe her body might have been there for eight months to a year prior to being found. Her body was badly decomposed at the time. Investigators believe her body was placed in the location where they found her remains in summer 2011.
“We’ve searched for her mother and her daddy throughout the area,” Clifton said. “We’ve looked at school records birth records and came up with nothing.”
The autopsy showed she suffered physical abuse prior to her death, and investigators believe she might have been blind in one eye.
“She had a troubled life and her orbital socket around her eye appeared to be damaged and we think she possibly could’ve been blind in one eye,” Clifton said.
Forensic artists put together sketches showing what they believe she looked like prior to her death, and still no one recognizes her.
Investigators found a pink shirt with heart shaped buttons with her remains.
“We ended up finding her along with this pink shirt that had ruffles on it,” said Clifton. “It had these cute heart buttons and ruffles around the collar.”
They’ve investigated several leads over the past 10 years, but no one seems to know the girl’s name.
Investigators say they found photos at a local church of a little girl who they believe could be the girl whose remains they found.
“Awhile back we did a story and some people at a local church possibly recognized her,” said Clifton. “We got some photos of her and we have not been able to get that person identified, so that very well could be her.”
Investigators say DNA evidence is leading them to believe she may have ties to Norfolk, Chesapeake or Northampton County, North Carolina.
“Other DNA has really helped us out a lot with trying to narrow down possible family members,” Clifton said.
They hope someone here may recognize her.
“Maybe there’s somebody there that knows something about her,” Clifton said. “Do you have an aunt or a loved one that’s moved off and you never see this child or don’t know what’s happened to this child, or somebody possibly got adopted? Any tip, anything that could lead us to a possible identification, would be very helpful.”
The University of South Florida helped do isotope testing on the little girl and determined she had higher amounts of lead in her system determining she was raised in the Southeast.
“Everybody has a certain amount and it depends on where you are raised, what type of drinking water you’ve had,” Clifton said.
Clifton said this case is like a dark cloud over the community.
“It’s very gut wrenching for our community,” Clifton said. “It’s still a black shadow that looms over this city and personally over this police department and my life.”
They believe Jane Doe was between four and seven years old when her remains were found, meaning she’d be a teenager now.
Clifton said his kids are in high school now, which hits close to home.
“This child is around my kids age now, or she would be if she were alive, so it’s real personal to me, it’s personal to several of my investigators,” Clifton said. “We are actively working this case.”
The citizens in the town want to know who this little girl is.
They want to give her a proper burial.
“We take murders very serious in Opelika but this one, when its dealing with a child, we will always work this,” Clifton said. “The citizens of Opelika, we are her parents as of right now, and we want to know who her parents are and hold whoever it is accountable for this tragic death.”
If you know who this little girl is, call the Opelika Police Department at (334) 745-8665. You can remain anonymous.