So I’m trying to ease back into things, still not feeling the greatest, and I ran Nelda Louise Hardwick‘s name through Newspapers.com and came across an awful story.
Nelda may have been killed along Interstate 10 in Hancock County, Mississippi on May 10, 1998, four and a half years after her disappearance from Lake Charles, Louisiana on October 14, 1993.
The unidentified woman was a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle on the interstate. In 2013, Nelda’s family identified the dead woman as her based on photos of the body.
The coroner was quoted as saying there was just “one chance in a thousand” that the body wasn’t Nelda, and speculated she was held captive the entire time and somehow managed to finally escape, only to be killed on the road.
An exhumation was duly ordered, but when they dug up the Jane Doe’s grave in St. Joseph Cemetery, they found a MAN in the coffin, not a woman. The judge ordered the proceedings stopped, writing, “Unfortunately, it appears that the remains at the Jane Doe headstone were not those of Jane Doe. Further, the chief medical examiner advises it is obvious that the location of her grave is unknown.”
So Nelda is still listed among the missing, and this Jane Doe is now missing as well and will probably NEVER be identified now.
I cannot imagine how devastating this must have been for Nelda’s family.
Margret Dodd disappeared from Beckley, West Virginia on September 7, 1977 — nearly forty years ago (I won’t quibble over two months). She was 27 years old and was witnessed being dragged, screaming, into someone’s car. James Hendree subsequently demanding a $10k ransom for her safe return. An FBI agent posed as Margret’s dad to meet Hendree for the handoff, and wound up shooting him after an altercation.
Margret’s body was found on Bolt Mountain in 1993, but it wasn’t identified until now. According to this article, her family recognized the clothes and jewelry found with the body, and mitochondrial DNA confirmed the match.
I’m happy for her family. The police are still investigating the case and there might be prosecutions in the future, as it seems unlikely that Hendree acted alone.
Per Charley Project Irregular Jennifer C., Raymond Lee Matlock, who disappeared during an elk hunting trip in Washington in November in 1998, was identified last December. His remains were actually found less than a month after he disappeared; it appears he drowned in the Bone River, which feeds into the Pacific, and his body drifted some 125 miles up the Washington coast to Vancouver Island.
Such a long journey is unusual for drifting bodies, and that’s a big part of the reason Matlock remained unidentified for 18 years. But I think this case is also a good example of why detailed clothing descriptions are important wherever possible. The body was found wearing a distinctive t-shirt with a drawing of a truck, surfboards and the words “Jimmy Z” — something the police at the time might help identify him, except that if anyone knew what Matlock was wearing when he disappeared, they never bothered to say.
The management of the Washington cemetery where he was buried combined forces with a local crematory to exhume his remains, cremate them and ship them to his mom in Texas at no cost to her. That was nice of them.
Remember my happy announcement that Linda Pagnano was identified with help from Carl Koppelman’s forensic art and Websleuther Ice190’s research? Well, erm, it turns out the announcement was a bit premature. Carl got the news from Linda’s family that dental records proved it was her, but it seems the medical examiner wants to wait for DNA results to make it official.
Sorry about that, y’all.
That said, I’d be VERY surprised if this body turned out to be someone other than Linda. See for yourself at the above link; all the stats match and she very closely resembles Carl’s drawing of the UID.
Per Carl Koppelman, Linda Marie Pagano has been identified. (That link’s not gonna work much longer; I intend to remove her today.) The seventeen-year-old had been missing from Akron, Ohio since September 1, 1974, but I think she wasn’t added to NamUs till last year, and I just added her case last month. She was beautiful, doe-eyed. Her body was found in Strongsville, Ohio, less than an hour from Akron, in February 1975, only a few months after Linda disappeared, but no one made the connection until now. In fact the UID wasn’t even listed on NamUs until June of last year. Carl says,
An online sleuth discovered this forgotten case while researching cemeteries for graves of John and Jane Doe’s. Websleuths member Ice190 [whom I know, she’s a Facebook friend] obtained the casefile via a FOIA request.
(Muttergrumble. Just how many more of these forgotten UIDs are out there?)
Just to show what an amazing, talented forensic artist Carl is, I’m going to show his drawing of the UID. He calls it a “rough reconstruction” because he had only the side view to work with, and no lower jaw. Yet it looks amazingly like Linda. Here’s Carl’s drawing on the left, and a photo of Linda on the right (I cropped Carl’s drawing and made it smaller because I don’t have a bigger picture of Linda).
Linda had been shot in the head, and her hands and feet were deliberately removed. Her mandible was missing also, though I’m not sure whether this was done by the killer or by nature.
Since the killer made a considerable effort to make sure Linda wouldn’t be identified, my guess is he or she was someone Linda knew. Given how long ago she died, there’s a good chance her killer is also deceased. But at least her family will get the opportunity to bury her decently.
I’ll cover the recovery of the Yates girls in their own entry, but here’s some other missing persons news:
- This accountant’s hobby? Identifying missing people through his drawings
My friend and Irregular Carl Koppelman has been featured in the Orange County Register. He does wonderful sketches of UIDs and was instrumental in identifying Cali Doe as Tammy Alexander. Congratulations, Carl!
- Trial date in 20-year-old cold case pushed back to October
A year and a quarter ago ago, more or less, Kirsten Renee Hatfield‘s two-doors-down neighbor was charged with her murder. The headline of this article is pretty self-explanatory, and the news story explains why: the suspect has new lawyers now who need time to review the evidence.
Kirsten’s case, for whatever reason, fascinated me back when I was a child and first started getting interested in missing persons. I had a website when I was twelve or so, with some poems and stories I wrote, and one of them was a poem called “Missing, Presumed Dead” and it was based on Kirsten’s disappearance, as I explained on the site. Kirsten’s mom found it and emailed me, saying she was touched that a little girl in Ohio was thinking of her and her lost daughter, but she didn’t believe Kirsten was dead.
- Judge orders suspect in cold case homicide to trial in district court
Apparently the motive for Cari Lea Farver‘s homicide was a love triangle; both she and the suspect, Shanna Goylar, were seeing the same man. According to prosecutors, after Goylar killed Cari, she burned the body and then went on Cari’s social media accounts and tried to make it look like she was still alive.
- Missing Oklahoma woman found more than 20 years after disappearance
This case isn’t one of mine. It’s a really awesome story, though, how hard Shelly Jennings’s daughters looked for her, and how she was found largely through their efforts. Twenty-three years after she walked away from her family in Oklahoma, she turns up at a bus station in Modesto, California. I hope they can reconcile, although given Shelly’s mental illness, this may not be possible.
- For families of missing persons, not knowing is excruciating
This is about the disappearance of Cody Henry Turner, who went missing from Washington in 2015.
- Missing Minnesotans: Susan Swedell
Obviously, an article about Susan Anne Swedell (for whom I recently posted an updated AP).
I thought I would share with you a comprehensive retelling of the famous unidentified man “Benjamin Kyle”, who is unidentified no longer, and the twelve-year search to give him back his name. Given my line of work, I’ve known about the case since the outset, but never followed it closely. This is a really good article about it. It’s really long, but it kind of has to be, as the case is so mysterious and took so long to come to a conclusion.