In 1973, police made a horrifying discovery: the bones of an unnamed adolescent girl with two gunshot wounds to the head, discarded in a landfill not far from Orlando, Florida.
According to the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, she had been deceased for at least a month before her bones were discovered on August 22 of that year, close to Route 431 in Altamonte Springs.
Her description did not match any local missing person cases, and she is still listed as Jane Doe 50 years later.
“What we’re doing is laying in those tissue markers, the ligature, the muscles and then the skin to try to determine what she may have looked like in life in hopes that somebody will recognize this child and help us give her her name back,” says Callahan Walsh, the executive director of the Florida branch of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Joe Mullins, a forensic artist for NCMEC, says it can take up to two weeks to finish a reconstruction, but he worked on this one for three exhausting, coffee-fueled days at CrimeCon 2023 in Orlando in the hopes that someone attending the true crime conference might recognise her.
“How do you go from a bare skull with obvious trauma, bullet holes, blunt force trauma, and turn that into a recognizable face? It’s a combination of art and science,” Mullins says.
He claims that the sculptor follows guidelines given by a forensic anthropologist.
The current Jane Doe is thought to have been between the ages of 13 and 18 when she was killed.
A Caucasian woman with brown hair tied back in a ponytail, that’s how she’s described. She was around 5 feet, 4 inches tall, and forensic examination of her bones revealed that she may have spent some time in the Midwest. Her early years are thought to have been spent in the western or northern United States.
Because no one matching that description had been reported missing from the region where she was recovered, the search for leads was expanded by police.
“Last I checked, there’s about 7.8 billion people on the planet,” Mullins says. “We just need one person to see it and say, ‘I think I know who that is.’”