TRENTON, Ga.— Investigators hope the momentum from a Jane Doe case involving a serial killer could play a crucial role in helping authorities solve a years-old killing involving an unidentified victim who also was killed in the 1980s in Dade County.
Admitted serial killer Samuel Little confessed last year to killing a Chattanooga area woman he had met at a club on what was then Ninth Street, now M.L. King Boulevard, in 1980 or 1981. He dumped the body off Interstate 24 in North Georgia.
The admission helped solve the years-old case that involved one of two Jane Does from the 1980s in Dade County. The other, which is not connected to Little (investigators cleared him through DNA), is getting renewed attention as detectives hope the public can identify both victims.
"I think the Sam Little case may have helped on this," said assistant special agent in charge of the case Joe Montgomery, with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 1 office. "We had been looking at both cases for a while, and we were thinking of ways we could generate more leads and more public interest. I think the Sam Little case has helped us in that. It has given us an opportunity to re-approach the public."
Little's victim is still unknown. Investigators presented a new facial reconstruction and sketch last week, hoping someone could help identify the woman. They've received between eight and 10 tips and now are tracking those down, Montgomery said.
The momentum gave officials another reason to redo the facial reconstruction of Dade County's only other Jane Doe from the 1980s. The old rendering, created in the late 1990s, was deteriorating and was created without modern technology.
A suit-clad special agent carried the victim's new, lifelike head into a Dade County courtroom in a plastic storage container. Officials placed the 3-D sculpture on a table at the front of the courtroom alongside investigative files with years worth of dead-end tips and information that hasn't turned up anything.
The artist used information from the victim's skull to recreate an image of her head with curly auburn hair, white skin and a full face.
"Redoing that head is going to help immensely," Dade County Sheriff Ray Cross said. "This is going to be very, very close to what the girl looked like."
She was found near Rising Fawn off an embankment alongside Interstate 59 about five miles from the Alabama border in the mid-afternoon of Dec. 16, 1988, by two Georgia Department of Transportation workers. The woman is believed to be between 25 and 35 years old, about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing about 125 pounds. She likely was killed somewhere else and dumped in Dade County, Montgomery said.
The cause of death was strangulation, according to GBI. The victim was wearing a navy-blue Thermaknit glove; long-sleeved, pullover shirt; navy-blue bra; Calvin Klein blue jeans; and black lace-up, ankle-high shoes, according to the GBI case listing. She was also wearing a small yellow-gold chain around her neck and a white-gold pinkie ring on her left hand with a heart on top.
That's nearly the extent of the information investigators have in the case, he added.
For investigators, it's been a frustrating investigation with few answers — a case that likely couldn't happen in modern times due to technological improvements and advancements in DNA gathering.
"Oh yeah, [it bothers me]. This is the case. This is 30 years for me. That's the case right there," investigator Don Hicks said alongside the investigative file and artist sculpture. "I don't know who she is, who killed her, nothing. There's no information except that right there."
Hicks was one of the original investigators on the case in 1988 and remains on it to this day. Investigators emphasized that the case has never officially gone cold. They've worked on it for more than 30 years, trying to find answers to give closure and put the person responsible in jail.
There have been similar unsolved killings in surrounding states and throughout the U.S., but as of now, there are no known connections between this case and any others.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Dade County Sheriff's Office at 706-657-3233.
Updated March 26, 2019 at 10:19 a.m. with additional information about the victim.