Judge orders exhumation of 'Jane Doe' in Hancock County

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Fifteen years after she was laid to rest, a woman buried in Hancock County known only as "Jane Doe" may finally be identified.

Friday, Judge Lisa Dodson ruled the body can be exhumed in order for DNA testing to be done.

Nelda Hardwick's family believes Jane Doe is their loved one. The Louisiana woman went missing five years before Jane Doe was struck and killed on Interstate 10 in Hancock County in the middle of the night. But Hardwick's family members believe she may have been kidnapped and tried to escape when she was killed.

Last Friday, members of Hardwick's family took the stand saying they are certain the woman buried at St. Joseph Cemetery is Nelda Hardwick.

WLOX News spoke with Hardwick's daughter after the judge's order was released Friday. Lauren Fruge said she is ecstatic.

"We might not find out that it's her. But whether or not it's her, someone is going to turn up with an answer," Fruge said. "We are finally, hopefully if it is what we think, we will have closure and be able to move forward with our lives."

Judge Dodson is not as convinced that Jane Doe is Nelda Hardwick. But said in her order she hopes identifying the body will be able to give closure to some family.

Coroner Jim Faulk said he plans to get with the cemetery keepers as soon as possible to map out exactly where Jane Doe's casket is so they can begin the exhumation very soon.

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