A new clue has emerged in the case of Opelika Jane Doe more than five years after the discovery of a young girl’s remains near an Opelika trailer park.
Officials have been working to provide new information leading to the identification of the girl, and they have released a detail from new test results.
Lt. Johnathan Clifton of the OPD said an isotope test from the University of South Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science revealed that the girl, called Opelika Jane Doe, was from the southeastern portion of the United States.
Results from the test arrived last week. Clifton said she was probably from Alabama or surrounding states.
Her skeletal remains were discovered in a small creek in a trailer park in the 1700 block of Hurst Street on Jan. 28, 2012. She had been dead for eight months to two years, placing her death between 2010 and 2012. Her death was ruled a homicide.
“Our main objective is to get her identified,” said Clifton. “It’s one of the most tragic cases I’ve been involved in.”
Clifton’s been on the case since 2012.
Sgt. Alfred White, who’s been working the case since 2014, said investigators have analyzed the area where the girl’s remains were found. He said, as of right now, investigators haven’t had a reason to look anywhere else.
“We’ve done everything we could from releasing photographs and composites. That area has been canvassed several times since the case.”
Officials from schools, the Department of Human Resources, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other agencies have been working with the police department to identify the young girl.
The girl had medium-length black hair that was styled in small, tight curls, and her race was identified as black. A long-sleeve pink shirt with heart buttons and ruffles on the neckline were recovered near her remains. She was believed to be between 4 and 7 years old, according to a post from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which released composite images of the girl in August 2016.
An anthropological assessment from the center revealed she had probably been abused and malnourished in life. An August 2016 Opelika Police Department press release stated the girl might have had poor hygiene or appeared sickly. Her teeth were underdeveloped and might have looked small and out of place on her face, due to malnourishment.
Officials could not release information about the girl’s cause of death.
“This girl was at an age where someone could have known who she was,” White said. “We’ve gotten calls from Arizona and other states, but they didn’t pan out to be our missing girl. We’ve gotten tons of calls, but we’d like to have more. Some of the calls didn’t lead to anything.”
The biggest lead of the case came from photos the OPD received in September, Capt. Bobby Kilgore said.
Officials received photos of a girl who might’ve been the missing girl. The pictures were taken in 2011 at a Vacation Bible School at Greater Peace Church. She would have been 4-to-5 years old in the photos. She also had a visible deformity with her left eye and may have been blind in that eye. All attempts to identify her through church and school records were unsuccessful.
“That’s been the biggest lead, but it did not lead to anything,” Kilgore said. “We absolutely owe it to her to get her identified. She had a name, and she had a life. We want to know about it.”
Mayor Gary Fuller said he also wants answers that will lead to the identity of the girl.
“It's difficult for me to believe that no one has come forward about this little girl. We don't know where the child was from or how she came to be in the location where she was found,” he said. “To say the least, it has been a gut-wrenching case for the fine officers of the Opelika Police Department. We're certainly not giving up and hopefully one day someone will share information that will help solve this.”
Anyone with information regarding the identification of the girl, is asked to contact the Opelika Police Department Investigative Services Division at (334)705-5220, the Secret Witness Hotline at (334)745-8665, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Call Center at 1-800-THE-LOST(843-5678).