Seven years after a woman's body was discovered in a wooded area in Bel Alton, the Charles County Sheriff's Office is hoping a new forensic sketch will lead to her identity and, ultimately, the person responsible for her murder.
A citizen walking her dog on a gravel road that connects Crain Highway and Irving Road in Bel Alton found the victim in a secluded wooded area on June 18, 1998, at about 3 p.m. Detectives responded to the scene to conduct the investigation, however, they were not able to identify the woman. They estimated the body had been left at that location between five and seven days earlier.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide. Detectives obtained fingerprints from the victim and the Forensic Science Unit submitted the prints to numerous agencies, including the FBI, but they were unable to find a match. Detectives also searched missing person files, sent teletypes to other law enforcement agencies, submitted a Violent Criminal Apprehension Program packet to the FBI, who compared it with serial cases, and submitted the victim's information to the Doe Network, which, according to its website, is the national center for unidentified and missing persons. Despite the detectives' efforts, the victim's identity remained a mystery.
About a year after the woman's body was found, the FBI, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute, provided the Sheriff's Office with a reconstruction sketch of what they believed the woman looked like. The Sheriff's Office released the sketch and asked for information from the public, but no leads resulted in the victim's identity.
The seven-year anniversary of the day the investigation began prompted the Sheriff's Office's forensic artist, Detective/Sgt. Don Stahl, to prepare a new sketch of the victim. He scanned a photograph of the victim's skull with tissue depth markers and created a computerized reconstruction of what the victim looked like. Detectives are hoping the new sketch will renew public interest in the case and help investigators identify the woman. Once detectives identify the woman, they believe they could identify her killer, because it is likely that the victim may have known that person.
The woman is described as a black female who was between 25 and 35 years of age when she was killed. She was between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall and between 155 and 135 pounds. She had a light complexion and no visible scars, marks or tattoos. She had not had any dental work on her teeth and her hair had been artificially colored.
"We hope this new sketch, which is a better reconstruction of what the victim looked like, will generate some new information in this cold case," said Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis. "We want to close this case to bring closure to the victim's family and to bring to justice the person who killed the victim."
The photographs are available on the Sheriff's Office's website at www.ccso.us.
Charles County Crime Solvers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest or indictment in this investigation and callers may remain anonymous. Anyone who believes they know the victim's identity is urged to contact Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or Detective/Sgt. Shane Knowlan at 301-609-6481.
PHOTO: A forensic artist created this computerized image hoping someone will be able to identify her.