A 5-year-old girl found encased in concrete and previously known only as “Baby Jane Doe” has been identified after 35 years, as authorities announced the arrest of her mother and her mother’s boyfriend in Georgia on Monday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a news conference in the city of Waycross that the body was that of Kenyatta “KeKe” Odom, who was found in Millwood, Ware County, Georgia on Dec. 21, 1988.
Special Agent in Charge Jason Seacrist told the assembled media that the body was found in an old TV cabinet, wrapped in a blanket, placed in a duffel bag and then surrounded by concrete, at an illegal dumping site in Millwood.
Evelyn Odom, also known as Zmecca Luciana, 56, and her live-in boyfriend at the time, Ulyster Sanders, 61, both from Albany, Georgia, were arrested without incident on Nov. 9, police said. They were charged with felony murder, child cruelty in the first degree, aggravated battery, concealing the death and conspiracy to conceal the death, the GBI said in a statement Monday.
Both suspects remain in police custody. It is now known whether they have paid legal representation. Investigators are working to locate the girl’s father.
“Finally after 35 years not only were we able to identify the remains of who ‘Baby Jane Doe’ was, but we were also able to make the arrest of who we believe were responsible,” Seacrist said.
An Albany Herald newspaper found near the body in 1988 provided a vital link to Albany, some 100 miles west from Millwood. But despite forensic testing, national media coverage and comparisons to missing children across the country, no suspect was found and the child remained unidentified.
Then in 2019, agents used modern DNA tracing techniques to determine that the child was from a family in the Albany area.
The breakthrough came in 2022 after a public tipoff following news coverage of the story’s anniversary and a renewed appeal for information, leading to the positive identification of Kenyatta in June this year.
“A tipster called. She had heard the story of ‘Baby Jane Doe’ and she believed she may know who this little girl may be,” Seacrist said at the news conference. “She knew that a child had gone missing and that her mother said the child had gone to live with her father. This person never really believed that story.”
The GBI and Ware County Sheriff Carl James thanked an anonymous local donor who provided a $5,000 reward for information relating to the “Ware County Baby Jane Doe” case.
James told the news conference that he was one of the two detectives who were called to the scene in Millwood 35 years ago.
“Upon my arrival I was really not prepared for what we were about to find. That is the body of a little girl who we now know as Kenyatta Odom, who had been discovered in a wooded area a short distance from the roadway,” he said.
“I would like to remind everywhere that where cold cases are concerned, investigators are always working on these cases, even though the public can’t see any progress for months or even years.”