A teenager known as “Walker County Jane Doe” has been identified, Texas officials said Tuesday, 41 years after she was murdered.
The girl’s name was Sherri Ann Jarvis, and she was 14 when she showed up at a Huntsville truck stop on Halloween of 1980 asking for directions to the Ellis Unit prison, Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae said at a news conference.
The girl said she was from Rockport, Texas, but she was in fact from Stillwater, Minnesota, McRae said.
On Nov. 1, a body was found on the shoulder of an interstate. The cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation, he said.
Detectives interviewed inmates and employees at the prison and spoke with authorities in Rockport, but no one knew who the girl was.
Last year, Walker County investigators began working with Othram, a company that specializes in analyzing DNA from trace or degraded samples. Using tissue samples from Jane Doe’s autopsy, they were able to find six relatives, McRae said.
Investigators spoke with five family members, who identified Jarvis and said she ran away in 1980.
In a statement read at the news conference, Jarvis’ family thanked the people who worked to find her.
“We lost Sherri more than 41 years ago and we’ve lived in bewilderment every day since, until now as she has finally been found,” the family said.
The statement said Jarvis had been removed from her home because she was frequently absent from school.
“Sherri never returned to our home,” the statement said.
“Sherri Ann Jarvis was a daughter, sister, cousin and granddaughter. She loved children, animals and horseback riding,” the family said. “She was deprived of so many life experiences as a result of this tragedy.”
The family added that Jarvis’ parents died before they got a chance to find out what had happened to her. “We love and miss Sherri very much. You are with mom and dad now, Sherri, may you rest in peace,” the family said.
Now investigators will focus on finding her killer.
“I know we like to refer this case as being a cold case,” McRae said Tuesday. But “it has always been a top priority — we loved her, as well.”