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Sherri Ann Jarvis, previously known as Walker County Jane Doe, (March 9, 1966 - November 1, 1980) was a teenager who was found murdered in Huntsville, Texas on November 1, 1980. She is believed to have been seen alive hours before her body was found, requesting directions to a local prison.

She was publicly identified on November 9, 2021 with assistance from Othram, Inc. The company had began work on the case during the summer of 2020, finding a potential match in March 2021. Further investigation led to the victim's positive identification.

Case

Background

Sherri was removed fron her parents' custody in 1979 and placed in a foster home in Stillwater, Minnesota to await a juvenile detention hearing. When she ran away from her hearing at the Washington County Courthouse in March 1980, she ran away with two unidentified sisters, making it to Green Bay, Wisconsin before they decided to return home. Sherri refused to leave and left on foot without them. In August, Sherri wrote a letter to her family from Denver, Colorado stating that they wouldn't hear from her until she was "at least 18 or 21" and that she was upset over being incarcerated.

Sightings

Some claimed to have seen Sherri, who claimed she was a runaway from Aransas Pass or Rockport, Texas on the evening of Halloween in 1980. All described encountering a teenage girl who said she wanted to visit the now-defunct Ellis Prison Farm to see a "friend." All three witnesses who saw the victim have died.

She was seen by the manager of the South End Gulf Station and two employees of the Hitch 'n Post truck stop. One of the waitresses at the latter establishment questioned the girl's age and if her parents knew where she was. The girl replied, "Who cares."

These details came to light after news of the victim's discovery was released. The witnesses were certain that the individual they had seen on the night of October 31, 1980 as the adolescent homicide victim after viewing morgue photographs. The connection Sherri may have had to the Ellis Prison Farm has never been discovered. Prisoners and employees interviewed during the investigation denied knowing the victim.

Discovery

At approximately 9:30 on the morning of November 1, 1980, a trucker called the police to report the finding of a nude body along Interstate 45. The victim wore only a necklace; red sandals were discarded nearby. She had died about six hours prior.

The victim had been beaten severely and strangled with pantyhose, which were lodged in her vaginal cavity. She had been sexually assaulted in both lower-body cavities with a blunt object; it is unknown if she was conventionally raped, as no biological evidence was recovered. A deep bite mark was located on one of her shoulders.

It is theorized that the victim was killed by someone she may have hitched a ride with; possibly a trucker who granted permission for her to spend the night in their vehicle after the prison would be closed to visitors. The location of her body was near the parking lot of a truck stop, which may have been the primary crime scene location.

Investigation

After her autopsy, it was determined she was likely from a middle-class household, as she was not malnourished and had excellent dental health. The examination failed to conclusively prove whether she received orthodontic care, but her teeth were "perfectly" aligned.

Early in the investigation, Henry Lee Lucas was considered a possible suspect in the Walker County case. However, bite marks on the victim's back could not be matched to Lucas. Lucas had a lengthy history of falsely confessing to murders he did not commit, although he is believed to be responsible for at least three during his lifetime. One investigator suggested she may have been murdered by a woman, based on some circumstances of the crime.

In January 1981, her remains were buried after the investigation stalled. In 1999, the body was exhumed for DNA information and to obtain a clearer estimation of the victim's age.

In late 2015, a 1980 photograph of a possible runaway from Corpus Christi surfaced that resembled the victim. Her name may have been Cathleen/Kathleen, Kathy/Cathy, or Katy, and she stated she was traveling to a different prison in Texas. It was impossible to determine whether or not this individual was the victim, as nobody came forward to identify the subject in the photograph, who bore some level of resemblance to the unidentified girl.

The sandals found at the scene were later tested for traces of DNA. The results have yet to be released.

There were previous speculations the victim was a 17-year old girl who was living at a Galveston youth shelter, known as "Kitty." Photographs and footage featured in the 1980 documentary Runaways were noted to bear a resemblance to the Jane Doe. "Kitty" was later identified and located alive. [2]

Related cases

She may have been killed by the same man as Debra Jackson, previously known as "Orange Socks," who was found around the same day a year before. Both were strangled, sexually assaulted, and left nude by a highway, except for footwear. Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing Jackson but later recanted; he was working in Florida the day Jackson was murdered. He confessed to thousands of murders in the country that he did not commit, resulting in coercion by detectives or for fame.

Another theory indicates the victim could be one of four other victims. The list included Harris County Jane Doe (October 1980) and Harris County Jane Doe (December 1980), left along Interstate 45. Each victim was strangled and some were victims of sexual assault. A third potential victim's body has since been identified. The existence of the so-called "I-45 Killer" has never been proven; during the early years of the investigation, several jurisdictions were aware of a span of murders of high-risk females in the state, although they were not limited to a specific highway or perpetrator.

Characteristics

  • Light brown hair, in a "wing" style.
  • Hazel eyes.
  • She painted her toenails a light pink.
  • Pierced ears, but no earrings were found on her or in close proximity to the crime scene.
  • Healthy weight.
  • One or more dental fillings.

Clothing and accessories

  • A thin gold necklace with a pendant containing a smoky or blue-colored stone.
    • This necklace was lost and was never photographed. An employee at the sheriff's office had possibly taken it as a souveneir.
  • A pair of high-heeled, strapped red wedges.
  • Pantyhose, which appeared to be the murder weapon.
  • She may have worn a yellow pullover sweater.
  • She may have worn blue jeans.
  • She may have worn a white blouse.

Gallery

Media

  • Her sketch and morgue photographs appear in Karen T. Taylor's Forensic Art and Illustration.

Sources


  1. Jarvis was removed from both NamUs and the Texas Department of Public Safety's websites in September 2021. Her identification was not confirmed until November of the same year.
  2. From The Vault: A True Crime Podcast (with Carl Koppelman)
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