A missing person or crime drama in books and television is always exciting. A body is found or a crime is committed and the case is solved. And unless you’re watching Cold Case or reading a true crime novel, the case is usually solved in less than a year. The victim’s family doesn’t age, the cops don’t retire, and the DA never leaves office with the case unsolved. But real life is different. Despite forensics and DNA, cases go unsolved, bodies go unidentified, and families are left grieving, never knowing what happened to their missing loved ones.
Other than having my home broken into four times between 1984 and 1987, crime never directly affected me. It still hasn’t, but on March 4, 2003, I witnessed something that left a lasting impression. It wasn’t a murder or a mugging, but it bothered me nonetheless.
That day in late winter, 2003, I checked my girls out of school to take them to the orthodontist. At the time, my oldest, Jennifer, was sixteen and Lauren was thirteen. After the appointment, we stopped at McDonald’s for milkshakes and then went shopping before heading home on Interstate 85 in north central North Carolina. We were almost at our exit when we came upon what at first glance, looked to be the scene of an accident.
Traffic slowed to a near crawl but I couldn’t move over into the next lane. So, I slowed down as we passed the emergency vehicles. Out of respect, my oldest daughter reached over and turned off the radio. As we turned to look out the passenger side window, we saw EMS workers carrying a black body bag strapped to a stretcher up from the ravine next to the interstate. There was a collective gasp followed by silence. This was no accident.
There was no wrecked car on the side of the road and apparently, no rush to get the victim to the hospital. Even before we saw the news that night, we knew someone had discovered a body.
Earlier that afternoon, a man driving toward Durham pulled off the side of the interstate when his vehicle overheated. That section of road is next to a wooded area where Ledge Creek overflows into a somewhat marshy area between mile-markers 192 and 193. The driver spotted a beaver pond and when he walked toward it to get water for his radiator, he discovered a partially decomposed female in a semi-fetal position by the water’s edge.
I can’t imagine how horrifying that must have been for him. Just seeing her body being brought up from the pond haunted both of my daughters and me for years. We later learned the victim was an unidentified mixed race female between the ages of 13 and 16. Authorities said she didn’t appear to have been beaten or stabbed. She also had no form of identification on her. She didn’t have any scars, marks, or tattoos, and her ears were not pierced. It also appeared that she had been dead four to six weeks before she was discovered.
Authorities sent her body to the Medical Examiner’s office in Chapel Hill, but it would be years before she was identified.
In November, authorities sent the skull and details of the case to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for facial reconstruction. The Granville County Sheriff’s department posted the image on its webpage and elsewhere on the internet, but the mystery remained unsolved.
As spring turned into summer and summer into fall, I couldn’t drive passed that section of interstate without thinking of that young girl and her family. Had they reported her missing? Did the authorities know who she was or how she died?
Due to weather conditions at the time of her death, determining how long the body had been there and how she died seemed impossible. By the following winter, the crime remained unsolved and the crime scene tape was still in place. Every time I drove passed, a chill would settle in the pit of my stomach. Had anyone even reported her missing? Who was this forgotten girl?
When found, she was fully dressed with a sweatshirt and socks but no shoes. There was no evidence of drugs or sexual assault and no evidence that she had been shot or stabbed. The body was too badly decomposed to tell if she had been strangled. So, I suppose the hyoid bone was still intact or the authorities would have speculated that strangulation was the cause of death, but I never saw any news articles about the remains being identified. Despite nationwide attention and local officials’ best efforts, Granville County’s Jane Doe remained unidentified and people seemed to have forgotten about her.
Years passed and I heard nothing more about her or her case. It wasn’t until recently when I decided to look for information about her on the internet that I found out her remains had finally been identified–in April 2007–more than four years after her body was found. The body’s discovery made the news as did her reconstructed image when authorities released it in November 2003. And in 2006, there was a newspaper article written about her, detailing what little information was available. Then in May 2007, http://doenetwork.org/cases/identified7.html identified her as Chrystle Edmonds of Waldorf, Maryland. The link states that identification was made through DNA and that a member of the Doe Network assisted in the identification. There is no other information.
To this day, I can find nothing about her or how she might have died. I can’t find any news articles on the case other than a link about her body being found and another about her being identified. I’ve learned her name, but I don’t know who she was, why she was in NC, or how she died. I do not know if she had a family that loved her or if she truly was one of the forgotten. And to me, that is one of the saddest facets of this case.
It’s as if she has been forgotten twice.
More details of this story can be found at http://z13.invisionfree.com/PorchlightUSA/index.php?showtopic=4788
And, if you’d like more information on missing and exploited children, contact https://secure.missingkids.com/HowYouCanHelp