HUNTSVILLE, TX — On November 1, 1980, the nude body of a girl, estimated to be between the ages of 14 and 20, was found lying face-down by a passing truck driver on Interstate Highway 45.
The driver called police, and investigators estimated that the victim had been dead for around six hours, placing the time of death at about 3 A.M.
The victim, who would eventually be known as the “Walker County Jane Doe,” had been strangled with pantyhose — and fragments of the hose were lodged in her vaginal cavity, along with her underwear.
She also had multiple bruises, a visible bite mark on her right shoulder, and had been sexually assaulted with a large, blunt instrument. It was not known if she had been raped, since there was no evidence at the scene.
Police say that the victim was between five feet and five foot five inches in height, and weighed between about 105 and 115 pounds.
Her eyes were a hazel color, and her hair was long and reddish brown. She had a distinctive scar above her right eyebrow, and her right nipple was inverted.
Investigators believe that the young woman was from a middle-class household, due to the fact that she had evidence of dental work. Her ears were pierced, and her toenails had been painted pink.
Police recovered a pair of high-heeled red leather sandals with light brown straps that she had been seen carrying from the scene, but the rest of her clothing was missing — except for a rectangular brown pendant containing a smoky blue or brown glass stone on a thin gold chain necklace, which was found around her neck.
Inmates and staff members at the Ellis Prison Farm were shown photos of the victim, but none could identify her. Despite a lengthy investigation, police were unable to locate a match for her.
On January 16, 1981, the body was buried at Oakwood Cemetery, located in the town she was found, under a donated tombstone.
Over the years, several theories have been proposed as to the identity of her killer: Some believe that she was killed by the same perpetrator as a victim nicknamed “Orange Socks,” who had been murdered almost exactly a year before “Doe” and found in Georgetown, Texas.
Others have named serial killer Henry Lee Lucas as a suspect, but the bite marks on the victim’s shoulder could not be matched to Lucas’ dental charts.
Some have even voiced their belief that the girl may have been murdered by a female.
Over the years, several forensic facial reconstructions of Walker County Jane Doe have been created, including two from the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children.
The remains were exhumed in 1999 to obtain DNA samples, and investigators have reached out to the public through various news and television reports in hopes to generate leads.
In November 2015, the case was officially reopened — and in December of the same year, a photograph surfaced, taken in 1980, of a 14-year-old white female, 5 foot four in height, a possible runaway named “Cathleen” or “Kathleen” from Corpus Christi, Texas.
The photograph of Cathleen came from a collection of a brother and sister who were 12 and 10 at the time and who had met her in a motel in Beeville, Texas, in summer 1980. The siblings believe that the girl they met could be the Walker County Jane Doe, and have posted images of her on the Facebook page, “Who Was Walker County Jane Doe?”
To this day, she has yet to be identified.
If you are in search of a missing person, make sure to enter their information into the database of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
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Main photo: Most recent reconstruction of the victim by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children