The Unnamed: Bitter Creek Betty

          I know I just covered a Doe case a few weeks back, but this week we’re going to take a look at another one. Bitter Creek Betty’s case has recently come back into the news because her killer has been caught. He has also been connected to the case of the I-90 Doe, also found in Wyoming. We’ll take a look at that case next. For now, let’s explore the tragic and confounding case of Bitter Creek Betty.

The Discovery

          On March 1, 1992, a totally nude and frozen body was found in Bitter Creek, Wyoming. A trucker noticed the body and notified police. Investigators theorize that Betty had been murdered sometime between October 1991 and February 1992, and was dumped from a vehicle at the spot in which she was found. The body had several signs of trauma – including signs of strangulation, signs of sexual assault, and bruising around the face and jaw. An autopsy showed that a possible  cause of death was the insertion of a tool (such as an ice pick) into her left nostril, which resulted in the breaking of her sphenoid bone.
          Bitter Creek Betty was estimated to be between 24 and 32 years old at the time of their death. Testing determined that they were of white and Hispanic descent. Betty was biologically female, weighed around 125 lbs, and stood at around 5’8”. Betty’s hair color was dark brown or black, falling to just above their shoulders. Their eye color was also dark brown or black. Their face was recognizable upon being discovered, and post-mortem images are available below (note – while they are not graphic, they may be disturbing; reader discretion is advised).
          Bitter Creek Betty had a Cesarean section scar on their abdomen, and a second scar on their left calf. It was evident that Betty had some dental work completed, hinting that they were of at least moderate means. Betty also had a tattoo of a rose on their right breast, with Chinese letters between the stem and leaf below the flower itself. This tattoo was traced to Tucson, AZ. When found, Betty was wearing a gold ring on their left ring finger and a gold necklace. Though the body was found nude, two items of clothing were found nearby – a pair of pink underwear and a pair of sweatpants. DNA, dental work, and fingerprints are all available in relation to Bitter Creek Betty.

(Post-mortem photo of Betty (left) and a forensic reconstruction of the I-90 Doe (right).
Via
Cowboy State Daily)

The Killer

          Clark Perry Baldwin was arrested in May 2020 for the murder of three women, one of which was pregnant at the time of her murder. Baldwin lived in Iowa at the time of his arrest, but he had previously held a job as a truck driver. His known victims were found in Tennessee and Wyoming. The only identified victim was Pamela McCall. Her case was reopened in 2019 by investigators in Tennessee. They put DNA evidence from the scene of her murder into a national database and found matches to the two unidentified victims in Wyoming – Bitter Creek Betty and the I-90 Doe. With the three crimes now linked, investigators used the DNA to create a suspect profile. Though there were no matches in criminal databases, a close match was found in an open source genealogical database. Investigators were able to track down Baldwin by using that close match as a familial starting point. This genetic genealogy provided investigative leads which eventually led to Baldwin.
          Baldwin was no stranger to law enforcement. In 1991, he was accused of and charged with the rape of a young woman. He had allegedly picked this woman up as she was hitchhiking, struck her on the head, tied her wrists, and covered her mouth. The attack culminated with Baldwin attempting to strangle the woman. She later claimed he held her at gunpoint. According to several sources, Baldwin had admitted to committing the crimes against this woman, but he was released as Grand Jury proceedings were pending. The victim was unable to be located to testify and charges were subsequently dropped. Additionally, in 1997, he was visited by the secret service as he was accused of counterfeiting money.

Possible Matches

          Bitter Creek Betty currently has been compared to nine missing persons, with no luck in identifying them. Investigators have compared available DNA with Janet Dolgae, missing from Trumbull, OH; Pamela Neal, missing from Arapahoe, CO; Nancy Jason, missing from Montgomery, MD; Vicki Nisbett, missing from Williamson, TX; Amber Scholz, missing from Sweetwater, WY; Sherry Bynum, missing from El Paso, CO; Pamela Dalton, missing from Scott, MO; Virginia Uden, missing from Fremont, WY; and Tiffany Sessions, missing from Alachua, FL.
          Teresa Ann Gruetter has been suggested by many online as a possible identity for Bitter Creek Betty. Teresa was last seen in Boring, OR on September 11, 1991. At the time, she was living with her son and her sister. It was her sister that first noticed she was missing – on the morning of September 11, Teresa was gone but her son and her car were still at the house. After this was discovered, Teresa’s boss called and stated she hadn’t shown up at work. Hearing this, her sister called the police to report her missing. Teresa’s ex-boyfriend is a suspect in her disappearance. Teresa was 33 at the time of her disappearance. She stood at 5’7” and weighed around 115 lbs. She’s slightly outside of the age range for our Doe, and stood an inch shorter than the estimate. Teresa is a caucasian female with an abdominal scar. Personally, I don’t see her as a possibility for Bitter Creek Betty, but I would be remiss if I did not mention her, as she is often brought up as a possible identity.

(An image of Gruetter.
via the Charley Project)

          After combing through NamUs and the Charley Project, I’ve only managed to find one slim possibility: Norine Higuchi Brown. Norine was last seen in Hyde Park, NY on December 12, 1990. It was the day before her 32nd birthday. Her husband stated that they had before she left the house on the day of her disappearance. He asked a friend of Norine’s to check a nearby mall for her car – the friend indeed located the car abandoned. After her disappearance, it was stated that Norine’s marriage was rocky. Her husband hired an attorney and refused to cooperate with police searches. Norine’s age falls in the range provided for our Doe, though her height and weight at the time of her disappearance was not known. Norine had brown hair and brown eyes, like our Doe. She disappeared well before our Doe’s estimated death and far away from where her remains were found – but I don’t see an issue with that, as it is possible Norine disappeared to start anew elsewhere. However, the race of our Doe doesn’t exactly match up to Norine. Norine was Caucasian and Asian, whereas our Doe was confirmed to be Hispanic and Caucasian. What pushed me to include Norine, though, is her pictures. He bears a striking resemblance to Bitter Creek Betty, especially around the mouth area.

(A photo of Niguchi Brown.
via the Charlie Project)

Investigating Agencies

          Bitter Creek Betty has been unnamed 27 years. The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office has Detective Michelle Hall as their contact – she can be reached at 307-352-6720 and reference case number 92-0763. The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation is also investigating the case – Sandra Erickson is the contact and can be reached at 307-777-7181. There is no known case number with the WDCI. If you know anything or even think you might have a lead, please contact these agencies. 

Sources

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