Authorities say a woman’s skeletal remains were identified 44 years after her murder.
According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, the woman long known to researchers as “Escatawpa Jane Doe,” has been identified as Clara Birdlong.
Birdlong was found on a Mississippi building site in 1977. Investigators suspect that she was the victim, or at least the perpetrator, of Samuel Little, the most prolific serial killer in American history.
According to the department, Birdlong’s remains were found near a highway in Jackson County on December 27, 1977. She was a small, black woman with prominent gold teeth on her front. It is possible that she wore a hair-do.
Officials claim she was found around three or four months after she died.
In an effort to find her, authorities said that “several facial reconstructions” and computer composites had been done over the years.
In January 2021, authorities in Mississippi contracted with a Texas DNA research facility to create a family tree that was based on Birdlong’s DNA. They traced the DNA to a Mississippi cousin, who then linked it to her grandmother, who was 93.
Investigators were told by the grandmother that her cousin was born in 1933 and disappeared from Leflore County sometime around 1970.
According to the sheriff, Clara was also described as a “nuttin,” a Texas cousin who called her Clara and said that Clara had a small face with a gold front tooth. She also described Clara as wearing a wig. “The cousin also remembered Clara disappearing in the 1970s.”
A woman from LeFlore County, who had a memory of Birdlong, told investigators in August that Birdlong was there in 1970s with a man of color “who claimed to have been traveling through Mississippi on his journey to Florida.”
Researchers said that Birdlong was never heard from or seen again.
Researchers discovered that Birdlong had the same DNA as her grandmother in September.
Little is believed to be the prime suspect by the sheriff.
The cause of her death is unknown.