A five-year-old girl whose body was found encased in concrete in the US 35 years ago has finally been identified, police say – and her mother and a live-in boyfriend have been charged with her murder.
DNA tests and a crucial tip given earlier this year finally gave officers the breakthrough they needed, as they named the young victim – known for decades as Baby Jane Doe – as Kenyatta Odom.
She was killed in her hometown of Albany, Georgia, before her body was dumped 110 miles away outside the city of Waycross, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Jason Seacrist said.
The little girl was discovered among broken furniture and other rubbish left in woods on 21 December 1988, by a man who stumbled upon a TV cabinet filled with concrete.
He called the Ware County Sheriff’s Office, with officers arriving on the same day and starting an investigation that would remain largely stalled for more than three decades.
“Baby Jane Doe is no longer unnamed, is no longer unknown,” Mr Seacrist said.
“The baby that was thrown out into a trash pile has been identified, and we’re working to bring justice to her.”
The girl’s mother, 56-year-old Evelyn Odom, and Ulyster Sanders, her boyfriend at the time, were arrested on Thursday and remained in custody on Monday.
A grand jury indicted both on charges of felony murder, first-degree cruelty to children, concealing a death and other counts.
Sheriff Carl James, who was one of the detectives sent to the scene that day, said he “really was not prepared for what we were about to find”.
Officers discovered a box concealed in the concrete with a duffle bag. Inside that bag was a child’s body wrapped in a blanket.
Mr James said the case always held a special interest for him and that, over the decades, investigators followed hundreds of leads and tips, most of them leading nowhere.
Decades passed with authorities unable to match the remains to any missing children and only a copy of The Albany Herald newspaper found nearby giving a clue to the child’s origins.
In December last year, officers once again made a public appeal for any information, with a reward offer of $5,000 (£4,070) from an anonymous donor.
Then a woman called in January this year with a critical tip.
“She knew that there had been a child who had gone missing and that her mother said that the child had gone to live with her father,” Mr Seacrist said.
“This person never really believed that story.”
That tip helped investigators to finally identify young Kenyatta and bring charges in her death.
He wouldn’t comment on a possible motive or how the girl died, although news outlets reported the indictment said the child died after her feet and legs were submerged in hot water.
District Attorney Greg Edwards said: “We believe that there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that will lead to justice being found for Kenyatta.”