The St. Louis Jane Doe of 1983

StL Jane Doe ApartmentOn a brisk Monday afternoon on February 28, 1983, in St. Louis Missouri, two rummagers went looking for scrap metal for their car in the basement of an abandoned apartment building — which has long since been bulldozed —  located at 5635 Clemens Avenue. One of the individuals pulled out his lighter to light his cigarette and that’s when they stumbled upon a gruesome sight.

There was an African American girl estimated to be between the ages of eight to eleven and approximately 4’10 – 5’6 in height. She was wearing a blood-stained yellow V-neck sweater with no tags and she was positioned face down with her pants and underwear removed. Her head had been decapitated and mold was growing on her neck. There were two coats of red nail polish on her fingers and her hands were bound by the wrists with red and white nylon rope.

When homicide detectives Joe Burgoon and Herb Riley arrived at the crime scene they initially thought she could have been a prostitute until they examined the body and realized the victim hadn’t gone through puberty. They determined she was beheaded elsewhere — possibly by a large carving knife because of how cleanly cut her head was removed — due to the lack of blood and was subsequently discarded at a later time. They did find some traces of blood on the side of the walls leading to the basement that indicated she had been carried and her body brushed against it during the process. An autopsy conducted by Mary Case from St. Louis’s Medical Examiner’s Office showed she had been raped and her cause of death was by strangulation three or five days prior to being found.

St. Louis Jane Doe Newspaper 1

As for the child’s head, it was never recovered despite an extensive search from Jerry Thomas and Frank Booker. This hindered the investigation because dental examinations couldn’t be provided nor a facial reconstruction through forensic technology programming. The investigators scoured a list of all children at the surrounding schools but everyone was accounted for. They proceeded to look through the database of missing children yet there had been no reports of a young child matching her description being missing, and she was ruled out as being five possible victims of ranging from several states including a Jane Doe from Northampton County, North Carolina.

At one point, detectives sought out assistance from a group of psychics who performed a seance. Herb Riley gave them photos of Jane Doe’s fingerprints, and as they passed the photocopies around they all had the same conclusion; her head would be located on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico and he should immediately contact the Coast Guard. This lead was pursued in-depth but it proved to be a dead end.

St. Louis Jane Doe Newspaper

Jane Doe’s case quickly turned cold and after ten months of exhausting all possible leads and nobody coming forward to claim her body, she was buried in December of 1983 at Washington Park Cemetary in Berkeley, Missouri.

Ten years later in 1993, investigators mailed her blood-stained sweater and nylon rope that bound her hands to a psychic residing in Florida for further analysis but this was a fruitless endeavor because the evidence was lost in the mail delivery. In 1996, the original homicide detective Herb Riley passed away and Jane Doe’s case was one of two cases he never solved during his tenure with the police department.

Twenty years passed by and in June of 2013, investigators were able to exhume the child’s remains with the hope of gathering new forensic evidence by modern advancements made in science and technology. This task proved difficult because the cemetery she had been buried in was unkempt, appeared long forgotten, her grave was unmarked, and many people were displaced because of insufficient care with the burial records.

With the help of willful volunteers and other various resources, Jane Doe’s remains were unearthed and transported to the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office where researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and University of North Texas recalibrated bone sampling and minerals (stable isotope analysis) to attempt to narrow down her native origins based on the water she had drank. The testing revealed she had spent most of her life in one of the numerous southeastern states including Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, and North or South Carolina.

Though new scientific testing provided a glimmer of hope to the child’s case, the police say it’s rather unlikely she will be properly identified unless someone comes forward with vital information. If any light can be shed on this devastating tragedy, it would be the nicknames she was given — “Hope” or “Little Jane Doe” — and her reburial in Calvary Cemetery on West Florissant Rd. in north St. Louis, Missouri, funded by the nonprofit organization, “Garden of Innocents,” where the plot of land is regularly maintained.

Overall, the list of suspects was unfortunately very short. With a lack of evidence from her murder, finding a person of interest was difficult. The authorities suspected a family member may be involved due to no reports of a child being reported missing, but considering they were unable to determine where she was from, that theory was hard to substantiate. However, there was one suspect that caught the eyes of the investigators.

Vernon Brown StL Jane DoeVernon Brown was born on October 1, 1953. He had a very troubled upbringing and suffered from excessive physical abuse from his grandfather. He dropped out of high school and in 1973 he was convicted of molesting a twelve-year-old girl and subsequently spent four years in an Indiana prison. After his release, nine-year-old Kimberly Campbell disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She was later found raped and strangled in a vacant residence that was owned by Vernon’s grandmother. Though he was considered the prime suspect in the case, there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with the crime. In 1985, Vernon relocated to Enright Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri, living under the false name, Thomas Turner, where he was living with his wife and stepchildren.

At approximately 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 24, 1986, he had just arrived home after picking up his stepchildren from school. Afterward, he sat outside on his front porch watching children walk home after being dropped off from the school bus. That’s when nine-year-old Janet Perkins, a bright young student at Cole Elementary School, was walking to her home a few blocks away, excited for the weekend. Vernon took notice and lured her into his home. His stepchildren saw her come inside and he ordered them into their bedrooms and locked their doors from the outside.

Vernon led Janet down to the basement where he bound her feet and hands by using a wire coat hanger. Moments later, he began to strangle her with a rope. Vernon’s stepchildren could hear her screaming and pleading for her life as her voice echoed through the air vents. Thereafter, he discarded her body and went on about his day as if nothing ever happened.

The following day, the police discovered two trash bags containing Janet’s body in an alley behind his residence. Two days later on Monday, October 27, 1986, the police arrested Brown, and a relative of a neighbor testified on his behalf saying they witnessed Janet enter his home. Throughout questioning him by detectives he confessed to murdering Janet on videotape.

Surprisingly, he admitted to murdering nineteen-year-old Synetta Ford one year beforehand on March 7, 1985. She was found strangled by an electrical cord and stabbed multiple times in an apartment basement where he had worked as a maintenance man. At the time, the authorities arrested him for the murder but he was let go after he gave homicide detectives a false alias.

While he was in prison in Bonne Terre, Tom Carroll — a homicide detective in St. Louis — frequently visited and questioned him about other possible murders he may have committed, particularly about the young Jane Doe found in 1983. Brown never confessed to her or anyone else’s murder. However, detectives believe he could be involved with at least twenty unsolved homicide cases but they don’t have enough tangible evidence to conclusively prove their stance.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2005, at 2:35 a.m. fifty-one-year old Vernon Brown was executed by lethal injection. His last words were, “You’ll see me again. To all my friends, don’t think of me as being gone, but there with you. And to Jazz, who has my heart and love. Peace, love. Vernon Brown.” If he participated in any other murders, he took those secrets to his grave.

Jane Doe’s case has never been solved and is one that haunts the original and current investigators, but as long as her case stays in the light, as her nickname given by the police suggests, there will always be “Hope.”

The Unsolved Murder of Eva Davidson Taylor

Throughout the East Area Rapists’ ten-year reign in northern and southern California, many people wonder if there were other crimes he had committed before and after his first and last confirmed attacks. As such, there remains one unsolved case that often gets spoken about the East Area Rapist being possibly involved and that is the brutal slaying of Eva Davidson Taylor.

On Thursday, April 18, 1974, at 5328 Parejo Dr. in Goleta, California, an unknown assailant used a Raytheon Eva Davidson Taylor Newspaperscrewdriver to pry open the sliding glass doors leading into Eva’s living room. Once the intruder gained access he made his way to her bedroom where he bludgeoned the seventy-three-year-old to death. The following morning Eva’s daughter made the ghastly discovery and notified law enforcement.

According to an official statement from the police, her death was considered to be part of a burglary gone awry. The crime scene indicated Eva’s bedroom had been partially ransacked. Nothing of substantial value was stolen aside from a costume jewelry locket and wedding rings, but the assailant left behind the much more prominent jewelry.

Prior to the murder, there had been several reports of prowling occurring in the neighborhood. One eyewitness mentioned seeing a young person jumping over Eva’s fence hours proceeding the killing. Law enforcement followed up on the leads they were given but the information was limited and sparse. The case quickly turned cold and it remains one of many unsolved crimes in the town of Goleta, California.

There are a plethora of reasons why Eva Taylor’s unsolved murder has circulated through various investigations into the East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker, which I will elaborate below.

First of all, the point of entry has striking similarities to how the East Area Rapist often gained access to homes he was targeting. He would frequently pry open glass sliding doors with a screwdriver. On other occasions, he would remove the window screen. Nevertheless, using that particular tool isn’t uncommon for break-ins and many homes in California have sliding glass doors so it wasn’t necessarily unique.

Secondly, Eva’s bedroom was ransacked but the items stolen didn’t have much value. He took inexpensive jewelry despite diamond ring(s) being visible. In many of the thefts by the East Area Rapist, he would often leave behind valuables that held significant worth. There are numerous incidences where he would take one earring rather than a set and steal coins instead of paper money.

Thirdly, there were reports of prowling in the neighborhood days leading up to the murder and an eyewitness claimed to see a young male jumping the back fence of Eva Taylor’s hours before the intrusion. Once again, this is a common trope amongst criminals, especially for the East Area Rapist, who would often stalk neighborhoods of a victim he was targeting at night and tamper with side gates to fences, doors, and windows to homes, and prank phone call the soon-to-be victim and surrounding neighbors.

The next reason is the location. Eva Taylor was residing in Goleta, California. When the East Area Rapist transitioned to southern California in the fall of 1979, he targeted Goleta and had a failed home invasion on the first of October. Thereafter, he committed his first confirmed double-murder in Goleta against Dr. Robert Offerman and Debra Manning on December 30, 1979. In the summer of 1981, he emerged again and horrifically killed Cheri Domingo and Greg Sanchez. In a compelling coincidence, Eva Taylor’s home was in proximity to where the botched invasion and future murders occurred. All of the victims lived within a three-mile radius of each other.

Lastly, the final reason is the murder. Eva Taylor was bludgeoned to death by an unknown object. In the majority of murders committed by the East Area Rapist, he would use a blunt force instrument. However, there were several times where he used a firearm but in those particular cases, the weapon was used for intimidation and self-defense.

If you examine his murders where a firearm was used, it seemed to only occur in the midst of a struggle. Dr. Robert Offerman and Debra Manning were gunned down, and the crime scene indicated that Offerman managed to get partially free from his bindings and lunged at the attacker. This action prompted the perpetrator to panic and shoot him numerous times and subsequently use this style of murder on Debra Manning.

When he murdered Cheri Domingo and Greg Sanchez, the crime scene portrayed clear signs as to what occurred. The couple was in bed together when strange noises coming from inside of the home alerted Greg. As he got out of bed to check on the commotion he encountered the intruder. Greg attempted to fend off the assailant but he was shot in the cheek. The wound wasn’t fatal but it made him fall down into the opened bedroom closet. Afterward, the attacker lunged at him and used a blunt force object to strike him in the face twenty-four times. He followed this up by a single blow to the head on Cheri Domingo with the same object before fleeing the home.

There are two other occasions where a firearm was used but these events aren’t conclusively proven to be committed by the East Area Rapist. However, they are often associated with him and law enforcement seems convinced he is behind them.

The first incident happened on February 16, 1977, on Ripon Ct. in Sacramento, California. At approximately 10:30 p.m. on a chilly Wednesday night, a family of three heard strange noises emanating from their backyard. The eighteen-year-old son went outside to check on the disturbance when he saw a male matching the general description of the East Area Rapist sprinting away from the home and leaping over a fence. The son chased after the prowler and as he hurled himself over the same fence, the man was waiting for him and used a firearm to shoot him and make a clean exit. Thankfully, the victim survived the encounter.

The last event took place on February 2, 1978, in Rancho Cordova, California. Brian and Katie Maggiore were walking their dog, Thumper when he managed to get loose from their grasp and run into a nearby backyard. As they chased after their dog they stumbled upon an adult male. This happenstance caused the stranger to react by pulling out a handgun and chasing the couple who were sadly gunned down when they were attempting to run away.

Nevertheless, none of these facts about the East Area Rapist means he committed the murder of Eva Taylor. There are reasons to substantiate this as well, such as this tragedy occurring two years before he made himself known six hours away in northern California, although there is circumstantial evidence suggesting he was active in Rancho Cordova in 1973 and 1975.

Furthermore, if he was the ransacker in Visalia, California, who operated between 1974-1975, it’s hard to comprehend one-man traveling in such extensive distances. However, for the sake of speculation, the ransacker didn’t commit any burglaries on the day of her unfortunate murder.

Likewise, Eva wasn’t sexually violated — something that was evident in the majority of the East Area Rapists’ crimes, hence the moniker. Moreover, his victims were in a specific demographic between thirteen – forty years of age.

Ultimately, not every home invasion, sexual assault, and murder can be connected back to the East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker. Though it’s awful to think about, there were many other serial killers operating in the state of California during the 60’s – 80’s.

Gerald ParkerOne such a killer was Gerald Parker, also known as “The Bedroom Basher.” He operated in Orange County, California, between 1978-1979, claiming six victims in total. His modus operandi had similarities to the East Area Rapist but there were differences as well. In 1980, he was sentenced to prison for six years after raping a fourteen-year-old. In 1996, he confessed to a string of murders that still remained unsolved until DNA evidence became relevant in forensic science. He was convicted in 1998 and the following year he was given the death penalty by lethal injection.

Bedroom Basher Newspaper Clipping

At the end of the day, Eva Davidson Taylor’s case remains unsolved. She deserves justice and her daughter deserves answers. Answers can always be obtained and they can come in the tiniest of spaces. Sometimes, all it boils down too is perseverance and a desire to continue pursuing the truth. Her killer has a name and somebody knows it. Do you?