Coroner hopes DNA leads to "Jane Doe" identity

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County's coroner is hoping DNA technology will be the key to identifying a woman who's body was found on I-10 back in 1998.

The victim is buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery near Diamondhead and is now known only as Jane Doe.  Coroner Jim Faulk wants to exhume her body for DNA testing.  "I get missing persons posters all the time, out of one of them there was a striking resemblance with our Jane Doe," said Faulk.

Jane Doe died on I-10 in Hancock County in 1998 near the four mile marker.  Authorities said she was the victim of what was first believed to be a hit and run accident.  "I read that she was knocked some 250 feet from the point of impact. The driver thought that they had hit a deer," noted the coroner as he reviewed details of the woman's death.

At the time of her death, authorities could never determine the woman's identity.  Fifteen years later, the Hancock County coroner believes a missing Louisiana woman named Nelda Hardwick could possibly be Jane Doe.  Hardwick disappeared from Lake Charles in October, 1993.  "She left a note for her live in boyfriend that she was going to the store and would return shortly, she never returned and has never been seen since," Faulk said.  "Turns out she's got four kids who haven't seen her in some 20 years. talking to them on the phone it almost brings you to tears they've been without a mother since they were three, four, and five years old.  Now they are in their 20's."

Faulk says DNA evidence could put the issue to rest and provide Hardwick's children with the closure they need.

So, the coroner filed a motion in court to have the body exhumed.  If the judge hearing the case signs a court order, it would be a first in recent Hancock County history.  "Three of us will hand dig and take it carefully in trying to retrieve the left femur," said Faulk.

That leg bone would then be shipped to a forensic lab at the University of North Texas for testing. The results will then be entered into a national DNA data base.

"I feel sure we are going to find out who she is," said the coroner.

A Hancock County Circuit Court Judge is expected to rule on Faulk's request to exhume the body this Friday after a hearing on the issue.

While Faulk is wondering if the body is Hardwick, Louisiana State Police wonder if Jane Doe could be another missing Louisiana woman.  Her name was Faye Self.  Mrs. Self disappeared from Armistead, LA in March, 1983.

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