OPELIKA, Ala. (WAVY) – Police in Opelika, Alabama said a young Black girl whose body was found there in the woods behind a trailer park more than 10 years ago may have lived in southeastern Virginia or northeastern North Carolina before she was murdered.
Opelika Police Sgt. Alfred White said they found the body of the girl, between the ages of 4 and 7, on Jan. 28, 2012, and they have new clues they hope will help identify the victim, known only as “Opelika Jane Doe.”
White told the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children their investigation has recently led them to Virginia and North Carolina, two areas where the little girl may have lived. They’re asking anyone in the areas of Norfolk and Chesapeake in Virginia and Northampton County in North Carolina to look closely at the photos they’ve released.
“We know there are people who have information about who this child is,” White said. “We’ve tracked down tips from across the country and now believe that she may (also) have ties to the Orlando, Florida area. We won’t stop until we can give this child her name back. She was just a little girl; she deserves dignity and a proper burial.”
The remains of the girl were found off of Hurst Street in Opelika. Near her body was a long-sleeved pink shirt with heart buttons and ruffles.
Police said their investigation showed that the little girl had been abused and neglected for years, saying her left eye was scarred, leaving her blind in that eye, most likely from the abuse they said she endured prior to her murder.
John Clifton, a captain in the detective division of the Opelika Police Department, said in a video from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that they need any help that the public can provide.
“It’s been 10 years now and we don’t have a name for her,” Clifton said. “And we want a name. She deserves a name. Any help from the public would be greatly appreciated. Anything. No tip’s too small.”
Shortly after her body was found, police released a clay facial reconstruction of what she may have looked like before she was killed. It prompted members of the Greater Peace Community Church in Opelika to come forward, police said, claiming they had seen the child before but didn’t know her name or her family.
Police say they sifted through Sunday school photos taken during the summer of 2011 and came across some that resembled the little girl found in the woods. The photos were released to the public, but police said no new information was generated.
A sketch was created by a forensic artist at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children with help from a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution. An updated sketch was created and released in 2021.
Police ask that anyone with information about the girl call the Opelika Police Department at 334-705-5200 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678), or go to facebook.com/helpIDMe to submit a tip.