The Unnamed: St. Louis Jane Doe
This week we’re going to be discussing a very gruesome Doe case. Before you read on, just know that this post contains details of a violent crime against a child. Reader discretion is strongly advised. Additionally, I won’t be posting any of the photos of the body, but if you look into this case online at all, you will come across them. You’ve been warned.
On February 28, 1983, two men stumbled on a headless body in an abandoned building in St. Louis, MO. The men were in the process of searching for items that they could steal and sell for cash – they stopped to have a cigarette in the basement and the act of lighting it revealed the corpse. The victim was a headless Black person who was biologically female. They were wearing a bloodstained yellow V-neck sweater and nothing else. Their hands were bound with red and white nylon rope and their nails were painted red. An initial theory posited by police was that the individual was a sex worker, but after further examination it was discovered that the Doe was prepubescent, aging between 8 and 11 years old. The height was difficult to estimate, though the best guess is that the Doe stood between 5’11” and 5’6”. Likewise, the weight is also a rough estimate of 61-70 lbs. The Doe had died somewhere around five days prior to her discovery.
It was determined that the Doe was killed somewhere other than where she was found, due to the lack of blood at the scene. Their head had been severed cleanly by a large blade, possibly a butcher knife. Their stomach was empty at their time of death. Unfortunately, there were no distinguishing marks on the body that could help identify them, apart from some characteristics of spina bifida. Examinations also showed that our Doe had been sexually assaulted prior to their death. St. Louis Jane Doe was buried in December 1983 as the case grew cold. It is worth noting that the Doe’s head has never been recovered. This prevents investigators from using the typical tools used in Doe cases. Without the head, there can be no dental records and no facial reconstruction.
In a desperate bid for any leads, police sent the bloodstained sweater to a psychic. The idea here (I guess) was that the psychic could touch the sweater and receive messages from the energy the sweater held. Unfortunately, nothing came of this avenue of investigation (shocking). Even worse, the sweater got lost in the mail when the psychic returned it. One of the two pieces of real evidence in this case, gone.
Investigators strongly believe that our Doe may have been a victim of Vernon Brown. Brown was a child killer and pedophile who was active in Missouri and Indiana between 1980 and 1986. Three victims have been definitively linked to him, though his victim count may be larger than that. Brown is suspected to be the killer of the St. Louis Jane Doe because they were around the age of his known victims, and bore evidence of his proven MO – the Doe was sexually assaulted and strangled. What is known about Doe does absolutely line up with Brown as a suspect but unfortunately he is now deceased, and any definitive proof of his involvement would have to come in the form of DNA evidence or familial confession.
Jane Doe’s body was exhumed in 2013 to allow police to forensically examine the remains again. The exhumation was a complicated affair – cemetery records were not kept and her remains were displaced. A photo of the casket on the day of St. Louis Jane Doe’s burial was eventually used to determine where the remains were located. Once exhumed, investigators conducted isotope testing to determine where the Doe had lived prior to their death – though the results were fairly inconclusive, pointing mostly to the southeastern quadrant of the United States of America. After tests were concluded, St. Louis Jane Doe was buried in a special section of Calvary Cemetery reserved for Doe burials.
When it comes to matches, we can only guess based on vital statistics. We have only guesses at what our Doe’s facial features looked like. As of the writing of this post, nine missing persons have been ruled out as being the St. Louis Jane Doe. These rule-outs include: Sherri Truesdale, who went missing from Forsyth, NC on June 13, 1970; Sherise Mageem, who went missing from Clark, NV on August 1, 1975; Beverly Ward, who went missing from Geary, KS on July 4, 1978; Yohanna Cyr, who went missing from Montreal, Quebec, Canada on August 15, 1978; Telethia Good, who went missing from Baltimore, MD on September 10, 1978; Sheila Quinn, who went missing from Cook, IL on February 27, 1980; Toya Hill, who went missing from Baltimore, MD on March 24, 1982; Saraun Cole, who went missing from New York, NY on February 25, 1983; and Shaunda Green, who went missing from Washtenaw, MI on October 15, 1983.
Additionally, two unidentified descendants have been ruled out as being the missing remains from the scene. The first was found in Newton County, Indiana on an unknown date – there isn’t much information on this Doe at all. In fact, I can’t find any information for them outside of a case number on NamUs. The second Doe ruled out as being the St. Louis Jane Doe is the Northampton Jane Doe from South Caroline – their partial skeletal remains were found in a wooded area on December 26, 1983.
NamUs returned no further results for the vital statistics of St. Louis Doe. There were also no matching cases on the Charley Project. Which leads me to believe that this Doe was never reported missing. There are a few sinister conclusions to be drawn from this. First, it’s possible that our Doe was never reported missing. This could be for a few reasons – because they had a history of running away, the police did not take the report seriously, or because the people that would report them missing were somehow involved in their death. It’s heartbreaking to think that this little human was left like trash in an abandoned home, and that it’s possible they knew who did that to them.
If you have any information that may be even remotely helpful, please reach out to the investigating agencies. The St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office’s contact is Rose Psara and can be reached at 314-622-4975, in reference to case number CITY-1983-0441. The St. Louis Police Department contact is Det. Joseph Burgoon, who can be reached at 314-615-8619 or by email at email@example.com, referencing case number 83-29584.