Alabama Jane Doe’s identity still a mystery despite leads

This Dec. 2021 WSFA 12 News Case Files report focuses on the case of 'Opelika Jane Doe'.
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 2:10 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2021 at 10:31 PM CST
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OPELIKA, Ala. (WSFA) – Capt. Johnathan Clifton with the Opelika Police Department was there on Jan. 28, 2012, when the remains of a small child were found.

“This case is very dear to all of us who work at Opelika Police Department and the community,” Clifton said.

The remains were found behind a mobile home on Hurst Street. The bones of the child would tell the story of a tragic and short life and murder.

“We’re talking about a child who is between the ages of 4 and 7,” Clifton said. “According to all the records from her bones that she malnourished and suffered from abuse.”

With few leads early on, forensics experts developed renderings right of what they thought the child might have looked like. The images highlighted a distinct feature: her eye. Police believe her eye was damaged and was the result of abuse.

“We have not been able to get that girl identified. We believe it could be here because of the damage to the eye,” Clifton said.

In 2016, another clue was added and an additional photo. Someone at a nearby church recognized the child, police added. The church employee believed the child attended Vacation Bible School at Opelika’s Greater Peace Baptist Church briefly.

“The problem is that we received this tip in 2016, and they only kept records for a few years and no longer had records of the attendees,” Clifton said.

This tip only led police to more questions. Who took her to church? Does she have family in the area? And who is this girl?

While it’s been years, people who live in that part of Opelika vividly remember the day the child’s remains were found.

“I know that down the street, there was a young lady who was at home washing dishes, I was told,” Sammie Floyd said. “She looked outside and she saw a dog playing with a head. At first, she thought it was a baby doll head….but it wasn’t, it was a human head, and that’s when she called the police.”

Floyd still lives in the community. He worries that the monsters who abused and killed this child are still living near him.

“Somebody knows this little girl,” Floyd added. “She has to have uncles, grandparents, somebody. Whoever that is, if you know something, you need to come and tell somebody.”

Opelika investigators say tips and leads still come in nearly ten years later, and they follow up on every single lead.

“It’s tragic that we’ve gone this long, it’s coming up on 10 years and we haven’t had anything. Not even a name or anything to help truly identify this child,” Clifton said. “We’ve had rumors, we’ve had tips all the way from New Jersey to Arizona and we’ve run all those leads down.

Clifton said one of the newest leads is in Orlando, Florida.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t work something on this,” Clifton added. “We’ve worked with several agencies and entities to help us find out who this girl is and somebody in the public knows.”

Clifton believes someone knows who this child is and what happened to her. That someone could be right here in our state.

If anyone has information about Jane Doe, please call the Opelika Police Department at 334-705-5200 or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST. Central Alabama CrimeStoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to her identity.

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