WLOX Special Report: Identifying John & Jane Doe
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Every day crimes are committed and investigators are given new cases. Luckily, South Mississippi has several dedicated detectives who have not given up on cold cases. Pascagoula Detective Darren Versiga is one of those.
"It's hard for me to fathom that a human being doesn't have anyone that loves them," Versiga said.
In re-opening a cold case from 1975, Versiga has discovered several forgotten cases that have never been solved. Four of the victims have never been identified.
Before Interstate 10 was completed near what is now Highway 613 in Jackson County, two days after Christmas in 1977, hunters discovered bones. Those bones belong to a black female who investigators have yet to identify. They believe she was between 35 and 45 years old.
"The most identifying mark I can find is she had a gold tooth that had a triangle in it," Versiga said, "I thought someone is going to remember that so we put that out there and put it on the web."
Unfortunately, Versiga has not gotten one call about the woman.
"You know she is someone's mother, someone's daughter," Versiga said. "In 1977, she was much older, so her parents are probably dead. But she had at least one child that we know of. If that's true, that child is still out there."
The woman had a broken nose, but the anthropologist who examined her could not determine if that happened before or after she was killed.
Mardi Gras beads were found near her body and Versiga said the way she was left in the woods suggests she was murdered. DNA testing has recently been done, but as of right now there is no match on record.
Two of the other unidentified cases Versiga is working are even tougher. He said both of the victims facial reconstructions were found at the Jackson County Coroner's office years after these cases had gone cold.
"I said, 'Vicki, have you gotten any boxes of bones that are left that we haven't sent for testing yet?'" Versiga recalled. "She said, 'Well, I've got two reconstructions here in my office, I don't have any paperwork on them, I don't know who they are, I don't know where they came.'"
Versiga is having the reconstructions re-done right now to get a better idea of what these people looked like.
One of the victims is a woman, Versiga believes she was found between 1986 and 1988, but he does not know where in Jackson County. The woman is believed to be part Caucasian and part African American.
The other victim was a man believed to be European or Asian. He was found floating near Chevron in April of 1992.
"We sent him off for DNA testing. They believe he probably came from overseas, based on his statistics. And it was thought then that maybe he fell off a boat and could have been a foreigner," Versiga said.
An autopsy showed the man may have been frozen before he was put in the water because his body was mummified when it was found. He is believe to have been between 30 and 50 years old with sand brown and gray hair.
Kristi Johnson is a crime scene investigator with Harrison County Sheriff's Department. She too is re-opening cold cases. Recently, with the help of Versiga, she discovered two victims in Harrison County and one in Stone County who have never been identified.
"I just feel like it's really important to not forget about these cases," Johnson said. "There is somebody out there who cares about these people and I just want, I want to give them the effort they deserve."
One of the cases she is working has been even more difficult than most.
"He was a victim of a homicide, and he was burned very badly. So we have no facial reconstruction available, we have no idea what he could have looked like in life."
He was found on January 19, 1987 on Highway 49 in Saucier in front of a home.
"Based on his autopsy, we know he is a young adult, white male, probably 18 to 30 years old," Johnson said. "He was 5'6" to 5'7" and he was petite in physique; he was only about 130 pounds."
He was found wearing a brown pullover and "chic" brand jeans. His socks had a blue and red stripe on top. The man had brown hair and brown eyes.
The man has since been buried, which means a facial reconstruction will probably never be able to be done. Despite that limitation, Johnson is not giving up.
"We are comparing his physical characteristics to all of the missing persons cases," Johnson said. "We also have DNA in progress. During his autopsy, hair was pulled. So we are hoping we can get DNA profile from his hair."
If you have any information about the victims you are asked to call Detective Versiga at (228) 762-2211. or Kristi Johnson at (228) 896-0664.
To learn more about unidentified victims in our state check out the Mississippi Missing and Unidentified Persons website: http://www.mmup.info/ or Harrison County's website http://www.harrisoncountysheriff.com/department-divisions/operations-division/cold-case-files/ .
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