Cold Case: Woman found floating in creek near Grand Bay in 1976 never identified

Local News
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GRAND BAY, Ala (WKRG) — A woman found shot, floating in a creek, with her hands cut off. 43 years later her identity still isn’t known and no one has ever been arrested for the crime.

On May 18, 1976, two boys were fishing in a creek that runs under Potter Tract Road south of Grand Bay and made a gruesome discovery.

“They’re out there at the fishin’ hole and found a lady floating face down in the water,” said  Detective J.T Thornton of the  Mobile County Sheriff’s Office 

Thornton says the woman found in the creek had been shot, her dentures removed, and her hands cut off. Plastic bags were wrapped around her arms and head.

“We believe that was done to keep blood from spilling into the trunk of an automobile,” Thornton said. “If it had been a pick-up truck he’d be less likely to care because he could easily wash it out. We believe that it was a four door sedan.”

Thornton says blood patterns on the road indicated that one person likely dragged the body from a vehicle and tossed it off the bridge on Potter Tract Road and into the creek.

The woman had been shot, once, at close range, in the back of the head. But who was she? Detectives determined her age between 50 and 65. But no missing person report ever matched the body and the woman still hasn’t been identified. It’s highly unusual.

“It’s very unusual that nobody came forward and identified her,” Thornton said. “Toward that point in someone’s life, they’re someone’s mother, they’re someone’s grandmother. It’s less likely that you’ll see someone in that age range being murdered.”

18 years later after the murder came a possible break in the case. A woman’s body found in a pond near the Alabama-Mississippi line. Her dentures had been removed and her hands cut off. Irma Williams had been killed in nearby Moss Point, Mississippi, by her son, a shipyard worker, named Henderson James Williams. 

Williams was convicted in 1996 and died in prison 12 years later. He was never charged with the 1976 killing.

Thornton is re-examining the case and came across a cast investigators in 1976 made of the victim’s mouth, to try to match the missing dentures. He hopes that might contain DNA that could finally identify the woman. And despite the fact no one ever claimed her, and the only suspect died a decade ago, Thornton says he’ll continue to pursue the case.

“There’s got to be some sort of closure for this lady,” Thornton said. “I mean to just leave her floating face down in the water is unacceptable. We’re not a savage society. This is the United States of America!”


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