Pascagoula, Miss. (WKRG) — A Gulf Coast murder solved more than four decades after the crime after new DNA technology finally identified the victim, known as Escatawpa Jane Doe, and connecting the victim to America’s most prolific known serial killer.
Clara Birdlong’s body was dumped in 1977 along where Highway 613 and Interstate 10 now sit in Jackson County, Miss. Investigators believe she was murdered several months before the remains were found, at the same time a well-known serial killer was arrested on the Mississippi coast.
“To be able to solve this is just incredible,” said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell. Birdlong’s murder has finally been connected to the most prolific serial killer in American history, Samuel Little.
Little was arrested in Pascagoula for a petty crime the same year Birdlong disappeared. Little confessed to this murder and 92 others before he died in a California prison last year, but he never knew Birdlong’s identity.
That’s where new DNA technology came into play.
A DNA lab in Houston called Othram joining the case. David Mittelman, Othram CEO said, “We worked with the Mississippi State crime lab. They had skeletal remains, some of the original skeletal remains which were discovered by those hunters that found the young woman in the first place, and we did the work we had to do to extract DNA.”
That DNA was used to create a family tree from Escatawpa Jane Doe’s DNA. That was able to link Birdlong to a 93-year-old living relative in Texas who has been looking for her for decades.
This DNA test is giving answers to other families, too. It’s already been used to solve two other Jane Doe cases on the Mississippi coast.
“All of these cases we talked about are from the 70s and 80s and for those reasons traditional methods weren’t valuable in generating leads.,” said Mittelman. “When that happens the case goes cold and so we specialize in tackling those unsolvable cases.”
The testing is changing the way law enforcement investigates cold cases.
“In the future, there’s no telling what we will be able to do, it’ just the beginning,” said Ezell.
The Sheriff’s Department said they will continue to work alongside Pascagoula Police and Othram to keep digging, and they won’t stop until every cold case is solved.