Maybe it’s that something about her face reminds me of photos of my mother when she was the same age. Maybe it’s the circumstances surrounding her death. Whatever it is, the image of the unidentified girl has captured my attention.
She was found by two boys checking their fishing lines early on the morning of June 7, 1975. It was determined by the autopsy that the girl had been in the water for about four days before being discovered. Her body likely floated down the Brazos River for some distance before coming to rest next to the fishing lines the boys had placed in the water behind the Lazy River subdivision near Sealy in Austin County, Texas.
She was nude, and she wore no jewelry. She had been in the water long enough that her facial features were distorted. For thirty five years, she has remained unidentified.
Austin County Justice of the Peace, Judge Dennis King, has been haunted by her. He’s carried the photos and his notes on the case with him all this time. He still remains hopeful that this girl can go home one day. He has said a prayer everyday for thirty five years that he can find out who she was. He had only been a judge for six months when he was called to the scene for an inquest.
The cause of death was officially listed as asphyxia by drowning, an accident, though Judge King believes there may be more to her death than that. She had been in the water so long, bloating rendered her unrecognizable. Her fingerprints were taken, but no matches were found. Police searched unsuccessfully around the river for clues such as the girl’s clothing. They flew planes overhead to search for anything of interest to the case. They checked for reports of abandoned vehicles. The checked missing persons reports. Every method available for identifying the girl was used, to no avail.
The only clues were the girl herself. She is believed to have been 15 to 25 years old. Her eye color was undetermined. She had long, sandy-blond hair, 15 inches long. Her body bore a 5 1/2 inch scar from a splenectomy (surgical spleen removal). She had a large gall stone in her gallbladder. She might have been pregnant or given birth at some point in her life. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Clearinghouse, she was between five foot three inches and five foot six inches tall and weighed between 110 and 125 pounds. She had well cared for, freshly manicured fingernails and toenails painted a dark red/wine color.
No leads surfaced, and the girl was buried in an unmarked grave Wallis Cemetery in Austin County. Over the years, others have taken an interest in the case, but had no better success. Still, Judge King has remained determined to identify this poor girl.
Finally, last year, Judge King was referred to the Univeristy of North Texas, Center for Human Identification in Denton. The center is one of the top forensic labs in the United States. They also specialize in DNA extraction from teeth and bones, and analize DNA, and compare it to DNA in a world wide DNA database, looking for potential relatives.
On July 29, 2009, the young woman’s body was exhumed and her bones and teeth delivered by Judge King to the Center. DNA extraction from the bones was unsuccessful. Efforts to extract DNA from her teeth are ongoing. In the meantime, Texas Ranger Forensic Artist Suzanne Lowe, began a facial reconstruction, using the skull, available photos from the case, and information in medical examiner reports to compose an image of what she looked like. One year later, and Judge King was able to see the face of the girl who has been in his mind for 35 years.
It saddens me that she died alone, and that, in all this time, no one has come forward and said “I know who that girl is”. It’s a tragedy. She was someone’s daughter, maybe a mother or a sister, at the very least a friend. Surely someone knows who she is and can help her go home.
If you have any information, please contact the Austin County Sheriffs Office at 979-865-3116, Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 at 979-478-6723, or Texas DPS Missing Persons Clearing House at 1-800-346-3243.
“Search For Unidentified Female Continues in AC”; Colorado County Citizen
“Who Is She? Cold Case Reopened”; Johnny Griffin, Wallis News Review, Navarro County Times
“A Face, But No Name For 35 Years”; Aimee Buras, Houston Chronicle