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Girl found at Christmas remains unknown nearly 40 years later

Posted on July 12, 2021

Local news
Recently released by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, this computer-aided sketch shows officials' depiction of a young girl whose skeletal remains were found in the woods near Northampton County's Pleasant Hill community in 1983.

Contributed photo

Recently released by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, this computer-aided sketch shows officials' depiction of a young girl whose skeletal remains were found in the woods near Northampton County's Pleasant Hill community in 1983.

This photo illustration shows Sergio Soto's clay sculpture of Christmas Jane Doe, a young girl whose remains were found in the Northampton County woods near the Virginia border in 1983.

Contributed photo

This photo illustration shows Sergio Soto's clay sculpture of Christmas Jane Doe, a young girl whose remains were found in the Northampton County woods near the Virginia border in 1983.

Lt. Alan Roye, left, the lead detective in the Christmas Jane Doe case, stands with Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith while holding criminal investigator program and advanced law enforcement program certificates he earned.

Contributed photo

Lt. Alan Roye, left, the lead detective in the Christmas Jane Doe case, stands with Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith while holding criminal investigator program and advanced law enforcement program certificates he earned.

Recently released by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, this computer-aided sketch shows officials' depiction of a young girl whose skeletal remains were found in the woods near Northampton County's Pleasant Hill community in 1983.

Contributed photo

Recently released by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, this computer-aided sketch shows officials' depiction of a young girl whose skeletal remains were found in the woods near Northampton County's Pleasant Hill community in 1983.

This photo illustration shows Sergio Soto's clay sculpture of Christmas Jane Doe, a young girl whose remains were found in the Northampton County woods near the Virginia border in 1983.

Contributed photo

This photo illustration shows Sergio Soto's clay sculpture of Christmas Jane Doe, a young girl whose remains were found in the Northampton County woods near the Virginia border in 1983.

This photo illustration shows Sergio Soto's clay sculpture of Christmas Jane Doe, a young girl whose remains were found in the Northampton County woods near the Virginia border in 1983.
Lt. Alan Roye, left, the lead detective in the Christmas Jane Doe case, stands with Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith while holding criminal investigator program and advanced law enforcement program certificates he earned.
Recently released by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, this computer-aided sketch shows officials' depiction of a young girl whose skeletal remains were found in the woods near Northampton County's Pleasant Hill community in 1983.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

PLEASANT HILL — On the day after Christmas 1983, hunters in the Northampton County woods made a grisly discovery: The skull of a little girl.

Christmas Jane Doe, as she’s become known to the locals who have tried over the decades to identify her, suffered from abuse prior to her death, according to her autopsy report.

A biracial mix of Black and white, the 4-7-year-old girl had been dumped in the woods behind a rest stop on Interstate 95, about a mile from the Virginia state line.

It’s unknown how the girl died, but the location of her body and obvious prior injuries to her facial bones indicate she had been murdered, according to authorities.

No clothing, jewelry or personal items of any kind were found with the remains.

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.

ON THE JOB

Alan Roye is a former chief of police in Rich Square. As a lieutenant with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, Roye completed the criminal investigator program at Wilson Community College in 2018 and received the Advanced Deputy Law Enforcement Certificate the following year.

“The certification has placed Lt. Roye among the elite of law enforcement officers within the state of North Carolina,” Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith said in a press release.

A veteran law enforcement officer with nearly 30 years on the job, Roye took over the Christmas Jane Doe case in August 2019.

In trying to learn as much about the case as possible, Roye has taken an unorthodox approach for law enforcement: He posted about Christmas Jane Doe on Websleuths, an online forum combining crowdsourcing and criminal investigations.

Roye asked the amateur internet detectives for any information they might have in the girl’s death. 

“I need a lot of help,” Roye said. “I am desperate to know as much as I can about this case.”

ART EXHIBIT

Christmas Jane Doe is one of 20 cases from around the country featured at a Florida art exhibit meant to help identify missing persons and solve cold cases.

The University of South Florida’s Institute of Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science in Tampa hosts the exhibit consisting of clay busts and drawings, digital compositions, artifacts and information about crime scenes. 

“This project is so important because it may be our only chance. For decades, the homicide investigations remained open and untouched. They need to be brought up to current investigative standards,” said Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor of anthropology at the institute. “I encourage families who have a missing loved one to come forward, no matter what obstacles existed in the past, and make a report. With the public’s help, this is how we solve cases.”

Family may be the problem when it comes to Christmas Jane Doe. A consensus of law enforcement officials leans toward a family member having killed the girl due to a lack of any matching missing person report and no one coming forward in nearly four decades to claim the body.

ISOTOPES

Chemical isotope testing conducted by the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner indicates Christmas Jane Doe to likely be a native of North Carolina or Virginia.

By looking at the heaviness of oxygen isotopes found in a person’s body, forensic scientists can determine where that person has spent time.

“Oxygen isotopes indicate the decedent, and potentially her mother, may have migrated considerably around the Eastern U.S. during the short lifespan of the decedent,” according to an isotope analysis report.

During pregnancy, the mother of Christmas Jane Doe possibly resided in the Midwest to Northeast regions. The girl likely spent the first years of her life in the northern portion of the Southeastern United States, which is North Carolina and Virginia.

“Bone oxygen isotope data suggest that during the last couple years of her life, the child may have resided to the south of the region where she was found, in the areas of Central and Southern Florida and a region of Central Texas,” the report states.

DENTAL WORK

Christmas Jane Doe received two tooth fillings at some point prior to her death. Fingerprints aren’t available, but the girl’s dental charts and a DNA profile have been submitted to national databases. Her assigned case number in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database is 2196.

LOCATION

The I-95 rest stop near the place where hunters found Christmas Jane Doe is located close to the Pleasant Hill community, an unincorporated area that’s part of the Roanoke Rapids Micropolitan Statistical Area and included in the Roanoke Rapids, Rocky Mount and Wilson combined statistical area.

Anyone with any information about Christmas Jane Doe can call the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office at 252-534-2611 or email Lt. Alan Roye at alan.roye@nhcnc.net. 

Team Cold Case offers cash rewards for information in unsolved cases. Its tip line number is 252-406-6736.

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