Break in cold case of decapitated girl

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Against the cold, February wind in 1983, several strangers carried a wooden casket to a small space in Washington Park Cemetery in St. Louis. Inside, was a little African-American girl, between 7 and 12-years-old.

Detectives called the girl "Hope." Nobody knew who she was, or where she came from. Only a few people stood in the cold cemetery to say a final goodbye.

"The news media and the police dept filled that void. There has been no family to talk to because we don't know who she is," said Det. Dan Fox.

Hope was murdered, beheaded, and dumped in a vacant building in north St. Louis. She was wearing a white sweater and blue jeans, and had nail polish on her fingernails.

Det. Fox and the detectives before him have tried to find Hope's family for the last 30 years. They tried every way they could to identify her. They preserved her DNA, they tried to follow hundreds of leads, and recently they worked with Washington University researchers and their high tech equipment.

A few months ago, that equipment helped detectives find and exhume Hope's grave. Neglect and time moved her casket under the cemetery earth.

Det. Fox found an isotope test done at the Smithsonian Institute that could help solve his cold case.

"It looks at the minerals in your bones and it gives a geographical region you may be from," said Fox.

The tests showed Hope may have lived some or all of her life in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee or the Carolinas. Det Fox wants to take Hope's story to those states.

"Maybe give us the key we've been missing," he said.

It's his last hope, for Hope before he, his investigators, and the same people who came to bury Hope the first time, gather again on Feb. 8 to bury her one more time in the Garden of the Innocents in Calvary Cemetery.

He's hoping people in St. Louis will come to say a final farewell to Hope. They've been her family by proxy.

If you know anything about where Hope may have come from, call 866-371-TIPS. Every call is anonymous.


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