HAVE YOU SEEN THEM? IDENTIFICATIONS NEEDED
Doe Network offers hope to families
July 18, 2005
The Sun Herald
By ROBIN FITZGERALD
GULFPORT - "Jane Doe" looked like a toddler you might see waiting to have her picture taken at a portrait studio or sitting in a booster seat at a restaurant.
She had strawberry blond hair and 12 baby teeth when she was found dead in a pink-and-white dress that buttoned in the back.
Her body, found in 1982, was in the Dog River beneath a westbound lane of I-10 in Escatawpa. Authorities believe she was thrown off the bridge a couple of days earlier.
She is one of nine unidentified victims found in Mississippi from 1982 through 2003, six of them in South Mississippi. They are among 840 people profiled on The Doe Network, a Web site that allows volunteers to help law enforcement identify the nameless victims.
The Doe Network's 400-plus volunteers include forensic artists who draw sketches of the victims or use forensic reconstruction to show what a victim probably looked like.
"We want these people to have their names back and their families to know what happened to them," said Ellen Leach of Gulfport.
Leach, a cashier at Home Depot in Biloxi, is state director of The Doe Network. She spends a couple of hours a day searching the Internet and making phone calls to help solve the mysteries.
The Doe Network has solved 22 cases and helped solve at least eight others since 1999. Leach said she solved one of the cases and assisted in another confirmed by DNA evidence.
"It's a good feeling to know you've helped families get the answers they need," said Leach.
Investigators such as Jackson County Sheriff's Sgt. Ken McClenic say they reach out to every available resource to help identify victims.
One of McClenic's investigations, a capital murder case from 2001, is listed on The Doe Network. The male victim's body was found wrapped in carpet on Old Stage Road. The suspect, Steven Leon Andrews, remains in custody without bond, awaiting prosecution.
"I've been doing this about 20 years and this is the first time I've put somebody behind bars in a murder case involving a victim without a name," said McClenic. "It's aggravating. It's frustrating."
"I hope to not retire until I know who this guy was. I'd like to talk to his family. Find out about his life. Try to understand why nobody ever reported him missing."
The man's fingerprints have not been found in national fingerprint databases.
But one of his tattoos - a peacock or a phoenix - is a symbol commonly associated with Columbian cocaine traffickers, said McClenic.
"I believe this guy was the victim of a drug deal gone bad," he said.
Several national databases are available for police use. The Doe Network is used by volunteers for research, but the online files with sketches also give families and friends of missing persons a way to do what they can do to help find a loved one.
The nameless victims
The Doe Network lists nine unidentified people whose bodies were found in Mississippi from 1982 through 2003. The victims, by case file number, county and date found:
1: 274UMMS,Lamar County, March 3, 1991. White male, 18 to 23, 5-feet-11 to 6-feet-1, gunshot victim, skeletal remains found in a ditch near I-59. Wore a 14K gold heart-shaped pendant on a chain. Believed to have been shot in 1988.
2: 231UMMS, Jackson County, June 1996. White male, 45 to 55, 5-feet-3 to 5-feet-6, brown hair, missing most of his teeth. Skeletal remains found in a wooded area near Vancleave. Wore a brown leather belt with two Confederate flags and the words "We shall rise again." Initials "ED" etched on the back of the belt buckle.
3: 491UMMS, Harrison County, Jan. 17, 2001. Black male, 32 to 42, height 5-feet-eight to 6-feet-1. Found in woods being cleared near Biloxi. Believed to have died one to five years before his body was discovered.
4: 649UMMS, Forrest County, Dec. 1, 1998. White male, 22 to 28, 6-feet-2, 170 pounds. Red hair with red beard and mustache. Was struck by a drunk driver while hitchhiking on I-59 north of U.S. 49 in Hattiesburg. Told paramedics his name was Steve Hex or Hicks of West Virginia, but no identity has been confirmed.
5: 644UMMS, Perry County, Sept. 3, 2002. Black male, 35 to 40, 5-feet-10, about 150 pounds. Died of gunshot wound 3 or 4 months before found in Petal off Grady Morgan Cutoff Road. Possible fracture to left hip.
6: 414UFMS,Hancock County, May 21, 2003. White female, 32 to 42, 5-feet-1 to 5-feet-4, found in the NASA buffer zone three days to three weeks after her death. Her clothing had been burned off. Wore two gold bands on her right hand and a silver heart-shaped ring with a hollow center on her left thumb. May have been killed in Louisiana or Pearl River County.
7: 429UMMS, Jackson County, June 18, 2001. White or Hispanic male, 25 to 35, 5-feet-5 to 5-feet-7, 250 pounds. Head shaved, scar on center of forehead, possible old gunshot wound to left wrist and scar on the left side of nose. Tattoos: large bird, possibly a peacock or phoenix, on right shoulder with long feather and flowers, "John" on right upper chest, Old English-script "E" or "F" on inside left forearm.
8:178UFMS, Hancock County, May 8, 1998. White female, 37 to 42, 5-feet-3, about 130 pounds, curly reddish-brown hair. Hit by a vehicle on I-10 near mile-marker 4. Had given birth at least twice and had a C-section, suffered from black lung disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
9: 45UFMS,Jackson County, Dec. 5, 1982. White female, 2 years old, 25 pounds, strawberry blond hair, 12 baby teeth. Found in the Dog River near an I-10 bridge in Escatawpa. Wore a "Cradle Togs" pink and white dress buttoned in the back and a disposable diaper.