Crime

A family waited years for their daughter to come home. 41 years later, she has been identified as Walker County Jane Doe

On November 1, 1980, at 9:20 am, a trucker was driving past the Sam Houston National Forest in Hunstville, Texas when he stumbled upon the remains of a girl. A pair of red and brown leather strappy heels were found nearby. Left without a name, she has been referred to as Walker County Jane Doe for the last 41 years.

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Three witnesses encountered the young girl on the evening of Halloween. The manager of a gas station claimed that she was dropped off in a blue 73′ or 74′ Chevrolet Caprice by a Caucasian man at 6:30 pm. She was wearing blue jeans, a yellow pullover and a white knit cardigan. She asked the manager for directions to Ellis Unit, a male prison located 12 miles north of Huntsville, claiming that a “friend” was expecting her. She left on foot, carrying her heels.

Walker County Jane Doe was next seen at a Hitchin’ Post truck stop along Interstate 45 where she asked a waitress for directions to the prison a second time. She told the waitress she was 19; when the woman doubted her story and asked whether her parents knew where she was, Walker County Jane Doe responded, “Who cares?”

Both inmates and employees of Ellis Unit were shown photographs of Walker County Jane Doe but all denied knowing her. She was buried on January 16, 1981, in Walker County where her remains were found. For the next four decades, she remained unidentified with her gravestone simply reading, “Unknown White Female. Died Nov 1, 1980”

Things changed in 2020 when the Walker County Sheriff’s Office teamed up with Othram Inc., a forensic DNA lab. Using genetic genealogy, Walker County Jane Doe was finally identified as 14-year-old Sherri Ann Jarvis on November 9, 2021, 41 years and 8 days from the day she was first found.

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Sherri was originally from Stillwater, Minnesota, where she lived with her parents and siblings. She was in the custody of the state at the time of her death due to truancy; Sherri ran away from home several times, the last being just shortly after her 14th birthday. Her last known contact with her family was a letter Sherri sent her mother from Denver, claiming she would return.

“She was a tender 13 years of age when the state removed her from our home for habitual truancy. Sherri never returned to our home as promised in a letter we received from her shortly after her departure. She was deprived of so many life experiences as a result of this tragedy. She was denied the opportunity to experience romance and love, marital bliss, the heartache and pain of loss, the pure joy of having children or growing old and being able to reflect on such milestones afforded an abounding lifetime.
Our parents passed away never knowing what happened to her or having any form of closure but we are grateful that they never had to endure the pain of knowing her death was so brutal. We take a measure of comfort in knowing that she has been identified and where she is located so we may pay our respects at her final resting place. We will continue to support those seeking her killer(s) because she did not deserve the death she received and justice served to those who would commit such a heinous act would be a fitting tribute to Sherri. We love and miss Sherri very much. You are with mom and dad now, Sherri, may you rest in peace.” — Statement released by the Jarvis family

Sherri’s family hired a private investigator and kept the same home phone number for decades in the hopes that she would call, but she never did. They now know that it wasn’t because she didn’t want to. Now that Sherri has her name back, the investigation into who took her life begins.

Written by Fatim Hemraj

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