Note: Got my schedule a little messed up here, so we’ve got a Doe case on the 25th this month and a cryptid case on the 30th.
This month’s Doe case is one that has found some infamy in the past year or so, thanks to two podcasts: The Fall Line and Jensen and Holes. The 1988 Jenkins County Jane Doe case has led to a lot of people asking a lot of questions. Based on several unique aspects of the case – which we will get into – this person should have gotten her name back years ago. So why hasn’t she? Let’s explore.
Sometime between 2 and 3 in the afternoon on February 14, 1988, a man who was searching for cans came across a nylon duffle bag in a dumpster near what is now the Bypass in Millen, Georgia. When he opened the duffel bag, he found a body wrapped in plastic and sealed in duct tape. Shocked, and possibly wary of police, he left the area with his girlfriend and returned with a third person. They eventually informed police of their discovery and noted that a brown car was present at the dumpster upon their return but sped off before any further details could be made out. Two children also reported seeing a similar car two days prior, on February 12, and heard someone crying “my baby.” Two people – both middle aged but any further details unknown – were seen at the dumpsters around the same date, throwing something in. The dumpsters had been emptied the morning of the 12th, meaning the body had to have been placed there after that, which aligns with the sightings of the middle-aged people throwing something away and the sighting of the car by the two children.
The dumpster and remains were sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations for a closer examination. Although Jane Doe’s body did not show any signs of trauma, their feet were tied and it was obvious their death was not an accident. There were no drugs in their system and no signs of sexual assault. With no other evidence of trauma, their cause of death was ruled as homicidal asphyxiation. Jane Doe’s body was unfortunately cremated before a DNA profile could be preserved.
Along with the bag and Jane Doe’s remains, a set of unique bedding was also found in the dumpster. It appeared to have been from a home, as it did not bear markings of being commercially manufactured – meaning it was sold for home use and not mass manufactured for hotels or hospitals. The bedding consisted of a light green throw pillow with a line of floral design on it, and a burgundy or maroon comforter with a similar floral design, and plain sheets. The floral design was made of satin on both the pillow and the comforter. A blue towel embroidered with purple butterflies was also found in the dumpster.
We don’t have much concrete information about the 1988 Jenkins County Jane Doe’s physical characteristics due to the state they were found in. The best estimation of their age was that they were between 16 and 25 years old at the time of their death. They were likely of Asian descent, but possibly could have been Hispanic, Native American, or a mix of those ethnicities. Jane Doe was between 5’4” and 5’6” tall and weighed between 135 and 145 pounds in life. They had long black hair that was thick and coarse. The eye color was unable to be determined, but based on other factors investigators guess they were possibly brown. Their teeth were in good condition, but their upper teeth were crooked, which possibly matches with the characteristic of winging – which is a phenomenon in which teeth rotate in place, sometimes very severely (at least to my limited dental knowledge/research) and is often present in those of Asian or Native American descent. Jane Doe was not found with any clothing, jewelry, or any other personal items.
There is currently only one rule-out for the 1988 Jenkins County Jane Doe. Yvonne Mestas was last seen on November 1, 1982 in Otero County, Colorado. One possible identity is Rita Navarra Stants, who went missing from Biloxi, Mississippi sometime between 1983 and 1985. At the time of her disappearance, Rita stood between 5’4” and 5’7” and weighed between 95 and 120 pounds. The height matches our Doe and weight can change drastically over such a wide window of time. Her hair and eye color both match as well. She was 19 when she went missing, which would have put her around 24 in 1988, which also fits with our Doe’s estimated age. She was also last seen in Mississippi, which is not far from Georgia. However, I do need to mention that Rita was not reported missing until 2019, so we do not have a lot of information about her.
The other subset of theories for Jane Doe’s identity consists of that familiar refrain we come across with Doe cases: we can’t find a matching missing persons report because they were never reported missing in the first place. Now, there are several reasons that someone would go unreported. First, it’s possible our Jane Doe was not reported missing because they were considered a runaway. This could be because they were actually a runaway or because they were simply a young, troubled person who was written off by the police and/or their family.
A second reason why they may not have been reported missing could be that their family never noticed they were missing. This often happens when someone is out of contact for long periods of time, typically due to a transient lifestyle. Longer and longer periods of time go by, and people are reluctant to assume the worst. Then, when they try to report it, they are often not taken seriously because they have little info to provide.
Onto our third theory: perhaps their family was the reason Jane Doe ended up dead, and they did not report her in order to cover up their crime. In this theory, the death could have been an accident that went unreported due to fear of repercussions, or a conscious act of malice that was then hastily covered up to protect the perpetrator.
Our fourth, and final, theory regarding the reason Jane Doe may have gone unreported is that they were an undocumented immigrant, here to forget a new path, make a better life for themselves. After all, America is supposed to be the promised land, and prior to 9/11 it was markedly easier to cross borders without documentation. These theories are all possibilities that don’t have a lot of evidence to back them up or refute them. One man confessed to the murder of Jane Doe back in 1988 – he was never charged or publicly named, and he is now deceased. Until more evidence or witnesses come to light, we won’t know who the 1988 Jenkins County Jane Doe was, how they ended up where they were, or why they met their fate.
If you have any information that could lead to the 1988 Jenkins County Jane Doe getting their name back, please contact the proper authorities. There are three for this case. You can contact the Jenkins County Coroner’s Office at 912-982-4221. Secondly, you can reach the Jenkins County Sheriff’s Office at 912-982-4211. Finally, you can reach the Statesboro Regional Office of the GBI at 912-871-1121. No matter which agency you call, you can reference the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children case number 1113140, NamUs case number 4697, or the National Crime Information Center case number U292381150.