The Unsolved Disappearance of Linda Sherman

When you’re married and your spouse has disappeared or been murdered the first person of interest is typically the significant other. In the majority of these types of cases, this notion is correct. However, there are instances where the partner is innocent. Sometimes, the police have a prime suspect linked to the crime but don’t have enough evidence to file charges, and the case goes unsolved. This is the unresolved disappearance and murder of Linda Sue Lutz-Sherman.

Linda ShermanLinda Sue Lutz was born in 1957 and raised in Florissant, Missouri. When she was a junior at McCluer High School, she met Donald Sherman, who was a senior. They seemed destined for one another, and despite their young age, they got married on February 10, 1975, at Christ Memorial Baptist Church.

Shortly thereafter, they rented a home next door to Linda’s parents, Walter and Elenora Lutz. At 17-years-old, Linda gave birth to a daughter, Patty, before the start of her senior year of high school. This didn’t deter her from graduating, and her parents babysat their granddaughter while Linda continued her education.

To help support his family, Donald Sherman worked as an assistant manager at a local gas station. He later transitioned to a factory job as a machinist. Once Linda graduated she worked a plethora of jobs, including Sears as a sales associate, Site Oil Company, a cocktail waitress at Flaming Pit restaurant, and the U.S. Government Records Center (now National Personnel Records Center).

Their marriage had many rough years because their job schedules often conflicted with each other, so they were unable to spend quality time together. When they were able to be together, Donald was very possessive. He always had to know her whereabouts and didn’t like her spending time with other people, even her own family.

This type of jealous and controlling behavior caused many arguments. Many of these fights resulted in Linda terminating the relationship but eventually mending things with Donald. The first instance occurred in October 1977, when she filed for divorce. By the middle of November, however, they settled their issues and relocated to a nicer and much bigger home in Vinita Park, Missouri.

Linda, Don and Patty Sherman

By 1982, things were going relatively okay, aside from the minor bickering every once in a while. Now that Linda and Donald had adjusted to their larger home they wanted to expand their family. Not too long after his decision, Linda became pregnant but unfortunately had a miscarriage. The unexpected loss took a toll on her, and her health suddenly began to decline. She was later diagnosed with epilepsy and often had seizures. This put a damper in their long-term goals, and they both decided it would be best not to have any more children.

Donald’s attitude started to worsen after Linda’s stillbirth. As a result, they started to fight more frequently. On one occasion, Linda believed Don was tampering with her vehicle–making it dangerous to drive. In her mind, that suspicion was confirmed when an argument broke out and he threatened to kill her, their daughter, and then himself. These dark signs were enough for Linda, and she filed a restraining order against him. The judge granted her request, and she and her daughter packed their bags and relocated to a small apartment in St. Ann, Missouri. One month later, Linda and Donald were back together; and as their relationship typically went, there were good and bad days.

In the spring of 1985, Linda felt that her life wasn’t moving forward in a positive way. In a state of feeling miserable and trapped in a neverending cycle, she finally took the initiative to leave Donald for good. She began saving money from her profession and was using it towards looking for a house or an apartment to rent, and even had her mailing address changed so she could avoid being around him in some small compacity. On April 11, 1985, she officially filed for divorce once again. Despite the measures Linda had taken to officially move on from her life with Donald, she was unable to completely avoid him.

Eleven days later on April 22, 1985, things took a very sinister turn. Linda had clocked out of her job at 2:06 a.m. and got home at approximately 3:00 a.m. When she arrived, Donald was waiting up for her, angry because of how long it took her. He began questioning her whereabouts but she refused to provide an answer. This caused friction and the two fought until 4:00 a.m., before going to bed, where Donald slept in the master bedroom and Linda decided to sleep on the living room sofa.

A few hours later, Patty woke up to get ready for her fourth-grade classes at George Washington Elementary School. In an uncustomary fashion, Donald took his daughter to school, which Patty found peculiar because her mother often performed this task. Moreover, she thought it was strange that her mother, who was still on asleep on the sofa, didn’t wake up to tell her she loved her and to wish her a good day at school.

Once Donald dropped off Patty at school he went on to his shift at work. He returned home about 6:00 p.m., and according to his story, Linda was still at home even though she should have been at her job, and was antsy and angry. The two barely spoke to one another, and she left home, presumably for work, shortly thereafter. Sadly, Linda never arrived and nobody has ever seen her alive again.

When Linda didn’t arrive home after her shift at work, Donald didn’t think too much of it because it was becoming a regular event. He also believed she was having an affair, which is one reason why he put her through a lot of intense questioning the night beforehand. However, when Linda failed to make her presence known for one more day, and her family became aware of what was transpiring, they urged Donald to file a missing person’s report.

Meanwhile, Linda’s family frantically went around town in search of her and also handed out fliers to the community that offered a $1,000.00 reward for information leading to her whereabouts. After scouring every nook and cranny, they finally uncovered her 1971 yellow Volkswagen abandoned in the parking lot of St. Louis Internation Airport. There was nothing that would indicate a struggle in or around the vehicle, but on the backseat of her vehicle was a hat and school books for a computer class she was taking.

In the subsequent days and weeks, the police got involved and began interviewing Linda’s friends and family members. With no contact from Linda, something that was very uncharacteristic of her, her loved ones started to believe she met with foul play, especially considering her unstable relationship with Donald and his recent outbursts. They also felt there was no way Linda would abandon her daughter; let alone leave her in the care of her unhinged father who once threatened to murder the whole family.

Linda’s family also suspected she was having an affair. It was later confirmed by law enforcement she was having a romantic relationship with a co-worker, and even an employee Donald worked with caught her in the act. When Donald was interviewed by the police, he stated he firmly believed she ran off with another man. He claimed to notice that on the last evening he saw her there was supposedly a missing bag with an assortment of items taken from their home. Moreover, he mentioned that one week after her disappearance, he witnessed seeing her in the passenger’s side of a van driven by an unidentified male, and when Linda noticed him she quickly ducked her head out of view.

As the police continued to conduct their investigation into Linda’s disappearance, they simply couldn’t locate any evidence to support that Linda vanished on her own accord. However, they also weren’t able to provide any affirmation she met with foul play. The only information they obtained throughout interviews with family, friends, and co-workers was that Linda didn’t have any enemies or people with animosity towards her except for her husband, Donald.

It wasn’t long after Linda’s vanishing when Michael Webb, a young patrol supervisor for Vinita Park Police was assigned to the case. He went on to interview Donald on numerous occasions, but aside from the testimony of friends and family regarding his precarious relationship with Linda, there was zero evidence to support him being responsible.

Additionally, Donald lawyered up and refused the option to undergo polygraph testing. All of these things culminated in law enforcement making Donald the prime suspect in Linda’s disappearance, despite nothing tangible to work with. For Donald, however, he felt slighted and believed the police were focusing only on him and refused to consider the possibility he was innocent.

As time went on, the lack of answers took a toll on Linda’s family. Patty went to live with her maternal grandparents on the weekdays and Donald had her on the weekends when he wasn’t working. Donald, though, was having trouble coping. He was utterly convinced that Linda abandoned her life, whether starting over by herself or with another male, so he attempted to file for a cross-petition for divorce, but this was unsuccessful because if she was still alive, she would have to provide consent for this to occur.

Eventually, Donald turned to alcohol and began drinking very heavily to cure his stress and depression–an issue his own parents struggled with. On February 25, 1974, his mother Audrey Sherman used a .38 caliber to murder his father, Charles Sherman, after they got into a dispute caused by alcohol and the struggle to keep the family afloat.

After five years with no answers and a cold case, a new lead in Linda’s case emerged. At approximately 12:30 p.m. on June 28, 1990, two Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight attendants went to eat lunch at the Mexican restaurant Casa Gallardo in Bridgeton, Missouri. They sat down at a table situated next to a glass plated window, and when they looked outside they noticed what appeared to be a human skull resting outside of some nearby bushes and a yucca plant. They quickly alerted the restaurant manager, who immediately notified the local authorities. If finding a skull wasn’t abnormal enough, Donald Sherman had been at the same restaurant the day the skull was found because he often frequented the bar there to drink.

The Police Chief, Walter Mutert and his investigators arrived at the scene and sealed off the area. They proceeded to send the skull to the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office for further analysis. It was learned that the skull was female and appeared to be of recent origin. Aside from this, there wasn’t much more information able to be obtained, because there wasn’t necessarily a crime scene or anything to indicate the remains was that of a missing or murdered person. The skull was subsequently placed on a shelf in the morgue and forgotten about. At one point, it was even considered to be stolen from a cemetery and dumped at the restaurant as a cruel joke.

Linda Sherman Skull 1

It wouldn’t be until fourteen months later on September 6, 1991, when the Vinita Park Police Department, who weren’t even aware of the skull being found, received an unsealed envelope. Inside was a Super Bowl flyer from the same restaurant the skull was discovered at, and on the back was a single sentence written in purple ink in all capital letters saying “THE BRIDGETON POLICE HAVE L. SHERMAN’S SKULL.”

Thereafter, new testing was done on the skull, and dental records confirmed that it belonged to Linda Sherman. With this surprising information, the police visited Linda’s family and broke the heartbreaking news to them. Patty, who was then 16-years-old, was devastated, but it did provide one answer that she was searching for, even if it wasn’t the one she wanted. Not too long later, Linda’s skull was buried in Steedman Cemetary in Callaway County, Missouri.

Linda Sherman Tombstone

Linda’s case immediately turned into a homicide investigation. In hopes to acquire evidence from the letter, law enforcement sent the contents to the FBI crime lab in Washington D.C. but nothing substantial was gleaned–not even a single fingerprint or DNA. Whoever had written the letter and mailed it seemingly took all precautions to avoid having it traced back to him or her.

Linda Sherman Newspaper ClippingMichael Webb and other investigators proceeded to reinterview friends, family, co-workers, and other people who knew her. Throughout this process, an ex-girlfriend of Donald’s told the police he had confessed to murdering Linda, yet there was no evidence to link him to the crime. Another theory, perpetuated by Donald, was that Linda’s place of employment was involved in a cocaine conspiracy ring and she was possibly silenced. One rumor that did pique Webbs’ interest sent him and a team of police and cadaver dogs to search some property 90 miles away in Perryville, Missouri for Linda’s remains, but after a thorough examination they were unable to locate anything. Once again, the investigation into Linda’s case turned cold.

In 1999, the police exhumed Linda’s skull and sent it to Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. There was new technology being developed, where newly electron microscopes and X-Rays used in archeology and soil examining was used to take samples of dirt clods that were initially found on Linda’s skull and gathered for potential evidence. The results managed to narrow down the place where she was presumably buried before her skull was retrieved and deliberately placed. Although this new research proved invaluable at the time, it still wasn’t enough to provide a solid possibility as to where the rest of Linda’s remains were and perhaps still are.

Since then, nothing has propelled Linda’s unsolved case forward with momentum. There is simply a lack of information. To help garnish attention and possibly unearth new leads, Unsolved Mysteries aired a segment on Linda’s case on July 2, 2001. Unfortunately, the episode didn’t provide much information, and the case has remained cold ever since.

The years continued to go by with no answers. Michael Webb, who started as a patrol supervisor, investigated Linda’s case for over twenty years and climbed the ranks to become the Vinita Park Police Chief. He passed away on February 4, 2009, due to pancreatic cancer. Throughout it all, he pursued justice for Linda every day he was able. He was adamant Donald was responsible for Linda’s disappearance and murder but was unable to provide enough evidence to convict him.

As for Linda’s friends and family, they tried to move on as best as they could. Donald Sherman eventually remarried, started a new family, and continued working factory jobs. On May 7, 2015, he passed away in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, at the age of fifty-eight. If he had any involvement or information about Linda’s disappearance and murder, he took those secrets to his grave.

Patty Sherman later relocated to Attica, Indiana where she got married and had a child. Even though there aren’t any answers to what truly happened to her mother, she continues to hold on to hope. There may never be any closure, but she does her best to learn from her parents’ mistakes and raise her family in a healthy, stable and loving environment. If she can provide that for her own family, she can live with some form of peace.

Sources

Linda Sherman – Unsolved Mysteries

Linda Sherman – Find a Grave

River Front Times – Body of Evidence

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The Unsolved Murder of Bonnie Huffman

When you’re young you sometimes feel invincible. Your whole life is ahead of you and it’s hard not to imagine yourself having a successful future. Your dreams and ambitions are at your fingertips, and the world is your oyster.

bonnie huffmanThese thoughts were no different for Bonnie Huffman, a hardworking, intelligent 20-year-old school teacher whom, in 1954, had just finished up her third year of teaching for K-8 students in Buckeye School in Old Appleton, Missouri.

While working as a school teacher, she was living with her mother, Lillie Huffman, and half-brother, Bobby Thiele in a three-room farmhouse and using the money she earned from teaching to help pay the bills, but was soon to start working an office job at Missouri Utilities Company that would provide more of a substantial source of income.

Bonnie also had plans of marriage with her boyfriend of four years, Doug Hiett, and they had made the appropriate arrangments for such an occasion even though they weren’t engaged. As with many relationships, however, they had their fair share of problems. Doug had been absent for a while because he was in the U.S. Army and deployed in Korea but had recently returned during the summer of 1954. It’s unclear what transpired, but on July 3rd, 1954, he unexpectedly ended his relationship with Bonnie without providing an explanation.

The break-up devastated Bonnie, and not knowing what to do she called her best friend mary lou bessMary Lou Bess and asked if she would accompany her to the Broadway Theater in Delta, Missouri, to help clear her head. Mary happily agreed, and she and her husband, Cramer Bess, met up with Bonnie soon thereafter, and they managed to keep Bonnie in good spirits for several hours.

Once the Broadway movie was over, Bonnie suggested the three go to the nearby tavern. She thought it would be humorous to watch drunk people stumbling around the parking lot. Mary and Cramer thought this was a peculiar thing for Bonnie to propose because she always avoided this particular bar due to its unsavory reputation. Mary and Cramer both assumed Bonnie was wanting to go there with the possibility of finding Doug but didn’t want to ask her reasoning. Instead, the two declined her offer and recommended that she should go home and try to get some rest.

The three parted ways, and Mary and Cramer believed Bonnie would be going home as well, but they noticed her get in her grey 1938 Ford and head in a different direction than her normal route. That was the last time Mary saw her best friend alive, and it’s unknown whether or not Bonnie drove to the tavern. What is known is that Bonnie did seem to be going back home on Highway N, but she never arrived.

The following morning when Bonnie didn’t arrive home, Lillie and Bobby started to get concerned. Bobby decided to make a trip to Delta, Missouri and found Bonnie’s vehicle parked in the middle of the road. At first, he presumed she had car trouble and checked to see what was wrong. The car managed to start up fine, and he proceeded to move it out of incoming traffic. Thereafter, he went back home to inform his mother, and the two called Mary and Doug to see if Bonnie was with either one of them, but she wasn’t. It was at this point Lillie and Bobby started to panic, and they called the police to report her missing.

When the police arrived at Bonnie’s vehicle, they found her car keys still in the ignition, but her purse, glasses, necklace, and watch were missing. There was also a Gene Autry toy cap gun near her car and a VFW magazine. However, they couldn’t locate Bonnie.

One day later on the morning of July 5, 1954, a young couple passing through from Allenville, Missouri noticed a foul stench in the air. They followed the source of the odor and uncovered the body of Bonnie Huffman two miles down the road, lying in a culvert, near the local high school, approximately two miles away from where her vehicle was found. The police were quickly notified and an investigation immediately ensued.

bonnie huffman newspaper

Bonnie was discovered to have knee abrasions, a dislocated jaw, and her neck broken. Her t-shirt was partially torn and her underwear was missing. This police believed she was sexually assaulted and murdered, but due to the warm temperatures and a lack of medical advancement, an official ruling after an autopsy couldn’t be determined.

It was theorized that Bonnie’s killer(s) made her park her vehicle, and subsequently brandished the toy cap gun to force her to comply. A struggle occurred, and Bonnie was forced into the perpetrator’s vehicle and managed to jump out while they were driving, and while doing so, was severely injured and the driver proceeded to rape, murder, and discard her.

Once the news of Bonnie’s murder started to make headlines, the entire community was in disarray — scared that such a grisly crime could occur in a small, populated town. The police were doing everything in their power to solve the case. They were interviewing hundreds of citizens and issued numerous polygraph tests, but they had trouble locating promising leads.

One tip they did pursue extensively came from the VFW magazine located at the crime scene. They managed to track down the subscriber and his mailing address to St. Louis, Missouri. According to the subscriber, he and his nephew were down in Hiram, Missouri — near Bollinger County, where Bonnie was discovered — for the 4th of July weekend but left back for home abruptly. Moreover, it was discovered that his nephew had actually been arrested in Bollinger County for sexual assault. The uncle was given a polygraph test and passed without any issues. It’s unsure if his nephew was followed up on more heavily or not.

Bonnie’s ex-boyfriend, Doug, was also brought in for questioning. He complied wholeheartedly and expressed deep remorse; blaming himself for her murder by saying, “If I hadn’t broken up with her, none of this would have happened.” He also stated he had planned to mend things with Bonnie because he regretted ending their relationship so suddenly. After a thorough investigation and a strong alibi for his whereabouts on the night this tragedy occurred, he was ruled out as a suspect. With the lack of pivotal leads to follow up on, Bonnie’s murder turned into a cold case.

One year later, a wooden cross mysteriously appeared where Bonnie’s body was found. Shortly thereafter, an unidentified person removed it for unbeknownst reasons. In 2007, a replica was planted anonymously, with the words: To the memory of Bonnie Huffman. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live. – John 11:25, KJV.

bonnie huffman cross

Ten years went by and in 1964, Bonnie’s cold case started to defrost when a true crime magazine covered her story and caused a huge splash. The author of the article illustrated Bonnie’s physical attributes and portrayed her as a lustful object for careless men, and labeled her killer(s) as a “Merciless sex fiend.” The sensational article created a much-needed resurgence in Bonnie’s case, and law enforcement began to look more heavily into the investigation. As a result, more leads and potential suspects were disinterred.

One person of interested was a man who molested his own two daughters when they were only six years old. Another individual unveiled was a man littered with tattoos and religiously spoke openly about his desires of sex and berating women. The last person examined was a local mechanic who had dark sexual fantasies and wore women’s clothing when he was at home. Unfortunately, law enforcement was unable to connect any of the men to Bonnie, and they were ruled out as a suspect.

Once again, Bonnie’s case became stagnant. It wouldn’t be until decades later in 2004 when the Cape Girardeau’s police station had a new clue emerge from a mysterious letter from Florida. It was mailed anonymously and had no return address. The contents inside had a detailed summary of what happened on the night of Bonnie’s murder.

According to the author, he (or she) was on their way home after a long night of dancing with friends and stumbled upon a deserted vehicle in the middle of the road. He believed the driver needed assistance, so he got out of his car but soon realized nobody was in view. In mere seconds, he spotted two men throwing *someone* in the ditch. In the midst of the commotion, he heard a female voice screaming for help at the bottom of the culvert. The two men became aware of his presence and immediately chased after him. He quickly got back inside his vehicle, and the two men attempted to force their way into his car to pull him out but the doors were locked. They proceeded to run to their vehicles and block his pathway on the road. He managed to escape their grasp and would go on to say in the letter, “How I ever got the clutch in and shifted, I will never know.”

Additionally, the author claimed he didn’t come forward sooner because he was petrified of retaliation, particularly because of how small the town was. Moreover, he included a hand-drawn map of where Bonnie’s body was found, along with accurate depictions of the roads and where the stores and the Cape Girardeau Police Department were located at the time. The police concluded that the letter was genuine and the most tangible piece of evidence they had. Sadly, the author never made contact again and due to his anonymity, the promising lead was unable to be pursued further.

It’s now been over sixty years, and most of the locals, witnesses, and possibly Bonnie’s killer(s) have passed away. The physical evidence collected has since been destroyed, although a single latent fingerprint from Bonnie’s rearview mirror still exists. With not much to work with, the likelihood of her case being solved is slim to none. One of the original officers who investigated the crime stated, “It’s just one of those things. Some cases can’t be solved. It’s just as simple as that.”

For Doug Hiett, he never really was able to forgive himself but did manage to learn how to cope with survivor’s remorse. He eventually married a lovely woman and had two beautiful daughters, and worked at Cotton Belt Railroad for forty years before retiring. In March of 2009, at the age of 76-years-old, Doug passed away and was buried at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Bloomfield, Missouri.

bonnie huffman bench
Image Source: STL Today

Bonnie’s surviving family members do their best to keep her case in the spotlight. They cling on to hope that with the neverending advancement in technology and the medical field, answers will eventually be presented, even if Bonnie’s killer(s) aren’t alive any longer. If they can obtain a name and a face, that will suffice and bring some form of closure.

In 2011, relatives of Bonnie purchased a set of black onyx benches that have her photograph engraved on them. They are located in Bollinger County Memorial Park Cemetary in Marble Hill, Missouri, where she is buried. To this day, the small town of Delta, Missouri memorializes the life of Bonnie Huffman. She will never be forgotten, and even though her case remains unsolved, her beautiful and radiant smile forever stays present in the minds and hearts of the community.

Sources:

Find a Grave

The Southeast Missourian

St. Louis Today

Snoop Dorky Dork Blog

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.”