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Years later, Jane Doe still not identified

I admit, I hadn’t thought about her in awhile.

Thursday morning, as I sorted through stories on the AssociatedPress wire, I came across one that was datelined Hayward, Calif.,and tagged “Jane Doe’s Funeral.”

What a coincidence.

It brought back memories of 14 years ago to the day — Sept. 18,1989 — when I started work at The DAILY LEADER.

When I walked into the newsroom on that Monday morning, thestaff was already at work on what would have been a big story forany small town. The body of a young woman had been found the daybefore by passersby at a roadside park on Interstate 55 south ofBrookhaven. She was nude, except for a pair of white athleticsocks, and had been strangled to death. Her age was estimated to bebetween 17 and 20.

Never identified by authorities, Jane Doe was buried in apauper’s plot at Rosehill Cemetery the following December. A localfuneral home donated the casket and conducted the services, whichwere attended by a small crowd of curious onlookers, includingme.

In the California case, employees of a coffee shop found thebody of the brunette, brown-eyed teenager stuffed inside a canvassack behind the restaurant on May 1. A rag was crammed into hermouth, and an autopsy revealed she died from suffocation. Ananthropologist who analyzed her bones estimated she was between 14and 16 years old. No arrests have been made in the case.

The Lincoln County Jane Doe case was solved, with the exceptionof her identification.

A year after her body was found, law officers arrested AlfredRay Case, then 26, of Brookhaven. He was eventually convicted ofmanslaughter. Case, now being held at the East MississippiCorrectional Facility, will not be eligible for release before July31, 2030.

Case told me in a 1998 prison interview that Jane Doe’s name wasJennie Miti. She was a prostitute he picked up in the FrenchQuarter of New Orleans because she looked like his first wife. Theytraveled to a motel in McComb where he strangled her because hecould not pay her $200 fee. He said he took $400 from her purse,where he saw the name on a Louisiana driver’s license, beforedumping her body in Lincoln County.

Still, there was no way for law officers to identify thewoman.

And, she is not alone.

According to the AP story on the California case, that JaneDoe’s death puts her in the company of at least 4,500 deceased Janeand John Does in the FBI’s database. Many of them are transients,undocumented workers from foreign countries and drug addicts withtenuous or nonexistent family ties, the story said.

Today, I can’t help but think about both Jane Does, lyingunclaimed in their graves.

Are their mothers and fathers looking for them? Are theirbrothers and sisters? Is anybody?

The answer, I guess, is the same as the inscription on JaneDoe’s grave marker at Rosehill.

“Known But To God.”

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to news@dailyleader.com.