Who killed Janie Sanders?

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Janie Sanders is at peace now, buried in a Pascagoula cemetery.  But on September 24th, 1975, that was not the case.  The teenager was kidnapped and stabbed multiple times. And to this day, no one has ever been arrested.

That may change soon. Detective Darren Versiga has spent countless hours on this own time working the case, pouring over more than 3,000 photos and records. He said new technology is helping.

"Now I can scan all these things into a computer," Versiga said. "I've put all of the suspects in one file, all the information having to do with vehicles in one file, I can cross reference other old cases."

The first suspect vehicle was a red Mustang, and dozens were pulled over. That was wrong. The vehicle used in the crime is now believed to be a blue El Camino with a camper shell and a CB whip antenna.

But why a 16-year-old girl walking home from school near the corner of Louise and Lanier Streets? Versiga has a theory.

"I think randomly she was picked, yes. But we had basically a predator out there looking for someone.  I think the crime speaks that."

Sanders' body was dumped in a wooded area near the intersection of Grand Bay-Wilmer Road and Airport Boulevard in Mobile County. The crime was so heinous, so terrible, that it haunts Detective Versiga to this day. It makes him want to solve this case. Even more so than ever, he's driven to do it.

"It needs to come out, we need to air it out, we need to see if we can find a suspect and put this guy in prison." Versiga said.  "He killed this little 16-year-old girl. It's haunted Pascagoula.  I can remember, I was 11-years-old when this happened and I can remember my mother not letting me go outside and play anymore because of what this man did."

The crime scene photos in an envelope on Versiga's desk are too gruesome to show on television, and even the most hardened police officers squirm at the sight of them.  The teenager was abducted at 3:30 in the afternoon, and was dead by 4:10.  Versiga looks back on that day.

"I can't imagine what she went through in that time span and it haunts me and some of the detectives that have worked on this case. I've met with them that are still alive today and it haunted them."

As for how people can help put a killer behind bars, Versiga has this simple advice.

"There is somebody out there that has this information and all they have to do is call me, they can call me anonymously and give me the information they've got, and I'll run with it."

If you have any information about the case, call Detective Versiga at (228) 938-6682.

Versiga said of all the suspects that have come and gone over the years, one stands out. His name is Larry Mann, who is on death row in Florida for killing a 10-year-old girl under similar circumstances. Versiga has proof that Mann was living in Pascagoula near Lanier Street in the early 1970s.

Janie Sanders left behind a mother, step father, two sisters and a brother who live in Texas.

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