A 56-year-old Georgia woman was arrested on felony murder charges nearly 35 years after her 5-year-old daughter was found dead, officials announced Monday.
The girl has been known as Baby Jane Doe since her remains were found at an illegal dump site near Millwood, Georgia, in Ware County on Dec. 21, 1988, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jason Seacrist said during a news conference. Her body was found wrapped up in a blanket inside of a duffel bag, which had been put in a TV cabinet encased in concrete.
The child was identified earlier this year as Kenyatta Odom, the bureau announced Monday. Her mother, Evelyn Odom, and 61-year-old Ulyster Sanders, who was Evelyn Odom's live-in boyfriend at the time of the child's death, were arrested Thursday without incident, officials said.
"Baby Jane Doe is no longer unnamed, is no longer unknown, the baby that was thrown out into a trash pile has been identified and we're working to bring justice to her," Seacrist said.
A medical examiner concluded in 1988 that the girl's manner of death was homicide, but a cause of death was never determined, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Investigators were initially unable to identify the girl when her remains were found, officials said. She didn't match any of the local missing children reports and investigators followed hundreds of leads and tips without success.
One lead, the discovery of an Albany Herald newspaper at the Ware County dumping site, pointed to Albany, Georgia — nearly 100 miles away from where Baby Jane Doe's body was found.
In 2019, agents looked into genome sequencing to identify the girl, authorities said. They determined a certain family tree from the Albany area was likely related to the girl.
"The forensic technology has changed," Seacrist said. "It has changed the investigative landscape. In 1988, I don't even know that DNA was on anybody's mind."
Even with the genome testing, investigators still weren't able to positively ID Kenyatta Odom until they got help from a tipster who contacted police after news reports aired on the 2022 anniversary of the girl's death.
"She knew that there had been a child that had gone missing and that her mother said the child had gone to live with her father," Seacrist said about the tipster. "This person never really believed that story."
Evelyn Odom and Sanders were charged with felony murder, first-degree cruelty to children, aggravated battery, concealing a death and conspiracy to conceal the death of another person.
Sanders and Evelyn Odom were dating at the time of the girl's death. Officials did not say what their current relationship is.
"We believe that there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that will lead to justice being found for Kenyatta," Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards said.
Officials did not share a possible motive in the case.
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