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UNIDENTIFIED

Body dumped on interstate remains mystery

Posted on May 3, 2021

Local newsTop news
This distinctive pattern of three bunnies riding bicycles and a unicycle has puzzled investigators for years since found on the pink sweatshirt of a young woman or teenage girl whose body was dumped along Interstate 40 in Orange County in 1990. Local, state and federal investigators have all struck out trying to figure out where the design originated and where the shirt was manufactured.

Contributed photo

This distinctive pattern of three bunnies riding bicycles and a unicycle has puzzled investigators for years since found on the pink sweatshirt of a young woman or teenage girl whose body was dumped along Interstate 40 in Orange County in 1990. Local, state and federal investigators have all struck out trying to figure out where the design originated and where the shirt was manufactured.

Forensic artist Carl Koppelman created this 2018 illustration depicting an unknown young woman or teenage girl whose body was discovered off of Interstate 40 in Orange County in 1990.

Contributed photo

Forensic artist Carl Koppelman created this 2018 illustration depicting an unknown young woman or teenage girl whose body was discovered off of Interstate 40 in Orange County in 1990.

This distinctive pattern of three bunnies riding bicycles and a unicycle has puzzled investigators for years since found on the pink sweatshirt of a young woman or teenage girl whose body was dumped along Interstate 40 in Orange County in 1990. Local, state and federal investigators have all struck out trying to figure out where the design originated and where the shirt was manufactured.

Contributed photo

This distinctive pattern of three bunnies riding bicycles and a unicycle has puzzled investigators for years since found on the pink sweatshirt of a young woman or teenage girl whose body was dumped along Interstate 40 in Orange County in 1990. Local, state and federal investigators have all struck out trying to figure out where the design originated and where the shirt was manufactured.

Forensic artist Carl Koppelman created this 2018 illustration depicting an unknown young woman or teenage girl whose body was discovered off of Interstate 40 in Orange County in 1990.

Contributed photo

Forensic artist Carl Koppelman created this 2018 illustration depicting an unknown young woman or teenage girl whose body was discovered off of Interstate 40 in Orange County in 1990.

Unidentified is a weekly series examining the more than 120 cases of unidentified human remains discovered in North Carolina. Reporter Lindell J. Kay produces each installment for The Enterprise of Spring Hope and other Restoration NewsMedia newspapers.

Click the hyperlinked text below to read previous installments:

Dozens of bodies found across NC remain mysteries

'Baby John Nash' killing remains unsolved

Drowning victim remains unknown

Man who stepped in front of train still unknown 

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

It’s difficult to imagine a more innocent image than three cartoon bunnies, two riding bicycles and one on a unicycle.

That design, adorning the pink sweatshirt of a young woman or teenage girl, is a stark contrast to the grim fate she met prior to workers finding her half-nude, decomposing body along a major North Carolina highway three decades ago.

A cleanup crew working along Interstate 40 in Orange County on Sept. 19, 1990, discovered the remains of the still unknown white young woman or teenage girl, believed to be younger than 20 years old at the time of her death. Her body was 15 feet down an embankment, just east of the exit onto New Hope Church Road in Hillsborough.

The young woman or teenage girl had been strangled and dumped about a week before discovery, according to her autopsy report.

“The location of the body, the fact that the body was unclothed from the waist down, the absence of any natural disease to explain death and the postmortem injury to the neck and face lead me to conclude that this is a homicide and that death was most likely due to asphyxiation or strangulation,” Dr. J.D. Butts noted in his autopsy summary.

No shoes were present at the scene and the bottom of the young woman or teenage girl’s socks were clean, almost pristine, according to the autopsy report. The clean socks could be an indicator her killer dumped her body straight from a vehicle rather than dragging her body or chasing her to the dump site.

Whether washed ashore, unearthed in shallow graves, stumbled upon in the woods, discovered in abandoned houses, killed on busy roads or located in rivers, ponds and along railroad tracks, more than 120 bodies remain unidentified in North Carolina. This is one of their stories.

The young woman or teenage girl had shoulder-length brown hair that had been frosted and dyed strawberry blond. Her eye color remains unknown.

The woman or girl had never given birth. She had no prior bone breaks or fractures.

Her blood alcohol content equaled .02 on the Breathalyzer scale. No drugs were in her system, according to toxicology results.

The young woman or teen stood about 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed around 120 pounds. She was most likely on the younger end of the estimated age range, according to information provided by Daphne Ownings, a volunteer who has worked closely with law enforcement on the case.

Investigators are also working with Leslie Kaufman, a forensic genealogist who provides pro bono assistance to law enforcement in unidentified body cases through her Butner-based company First Genes.

Kaufman became involved as a volunteer during the Bobby Whitt case in which Orange County investigators worked for two decades to identify the 10-year-old boy whose body was dumped along Interstate 40 under a billboard near Mebane in 1998. DNA confirmed the child’s identity in 2018, and his father pleaded guilty last year to the murders of the boy and his mother, whose body had been dumped in South Carolina and also identified through DNA, according to press releases and published reports.

“After that case, I determined I was going to learn how to do genealogy and help with these other cases,” Kaufman said.

Renowned forensic artist Carl Koppelman created a new illustration of the young woman or teenage girl in 2018.

Social media and the internet weren’t resources for law enforcement in 1990, but now these avenues allow the young woman or teen’s likeness to be shared with millions of people, Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said in a press statement at the time his office released the illustration.

“This image needs to reach the right person — the person who knows who this girl was,” Blackwood said.

Investigators have pursued more than 100 leads. More than 40 missing women have been ruled out as a match.

The young woman or teenage girl’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System number is 2224. Anyone with information can contact Capt. Joshua Wood with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at 919-245-2927 or Team Cold Case at 252-406-6736. A monetary reward is available.

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