For decades, two small tombstones sat side by side in a cemetery on the Mississippi coast. It was only identified as Baby Jane and Baby Jane II.
The “Jane Doze” baby was found on various occasions in the rivers of Jackson County in 1982 and 1988, and was buried by members of the community after investigators could not find a lead in either case. ..
Then, at the end of last year, investigators were able to identify Baby Jane through DNA testing, almost 40 years after her death. This week, investigators wanted to excavate Baby Jane II from her rest area in Jackson County Memorial Park in Pascagoula and find her real name.
In a news release, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezel said the baby’s body had been sent to the Mississippi Criminology Institute. Once her DNA is collected, researchers want to use it to create a family tree.
Baby Jane II was discovered on June 28, 1988 on the Pascagoula River by two men fishing near Wade’s wildlife management area. The child was found entangled in a fishing line.
Autopsy revealed that the baby, then 3-5 weeks old, had drowned.
The incident had a devastating effect on the community, even years later.
Gina Marshall was a young girl who lived a few miles away from where Baby Jane II was found at the time. She remembers crossing the bridge over the Pascagoula River to go to summer school that day. A toddler was found shortly after she arrived at school.
From that day on, Marshall said that crossing bridges and visiting the river with his family always made him sick.
“This is something I’ve been carrying around for years, but it still breaks it. I hope they can find her identity,” she said.
To make the case even more painful, the baby girl was the second child found in a river in Jackson County in 10 years.
On December 5, 1982, an 18-month-old baby Jane was discovered floating on the Escatopa River in a pink and white checkered dress and diaper.
In December 2020, DNA testing confirmed that she was finally Alisha Ann Heinrich. According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Heinrich went missing with his 23-year-old mother, Gwendolyn Make Lemons, around 1982 at Thanksgiving in Joplin, Missouri. Clemmons was planning to start a new life in Florida.
Clemmons is also believed to have died, but her body has not been found. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said last year that a man traveling with his mother and daughter was suspected of their disappearance. The man died afterwards.
The Season of Justice Corporation, a non-profit organization in Baltimore, Maryland, pays for Baby Jane II’s lab work. Redgrave Research Forensic Services, located in Asol, Massachusetts, attempts to profile a child’s family history.
The owner of Jackson County Memorial Park donated the cost of excavating the baby.
Marshall said that seeing Baby Jane identified gave hope that DNA testing would be the key to finding the identity of a second anonymous child.
“I’m sure it will be bittersweet,” she said. “I think the idea that she doesn’t have an identity makes this the saddest thing. She wasn’t anyone — she belonged somewhere. Give her a chance. For example, perhaps with her own children, she will now be about 33 years old. “
Willingham is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America Is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in the local newsroom to report on unreported issues.