On May 18, 1968, while walking in the woods near Georgetown, Kentucky, a man named Wilbur Riddle discovered the nude, decomposed body of a young woman, wrapped in canvas of the sort used for tents. She had been killed by a blow to the head.
Unable to discover her identity, police named her "Tent Girl." When she was buried in a cemetery near Georgetown, the headstone bore that name.
A few years ago, Todd Matthews, a factory worker who was married to Wilbur Riddle's daughter, became obsessed with identifying the woman. Matthews, 28, who lives in nearby Livingston, Tennessee, spent thousands of dollars following up leads that went nowhere.
Last year, Matthews discovered the Internet. He began searching missing persons Web sites, looking for clues. In January, he came across a listing for someone who matched Tent Girl's description. Matthews emailed the woman who had posted the information, Rosemary Westbrook of Benton, Arkansas.
Tent Girl is laid to rest 30 years ago.
Westbrook's sister, Barbara "Bobbie" Ann Taylor, had disappeared in late 1967 from her home in Lexington, Kentucky, about ten miles from Georgetown.
Matthews and Westbrook, 40, were startled to learn that Tent Girl and Taylor seemed remarkably similar: both women were 5 foot 1 inch tall, weighed 110 pounds, had reddish brown hair, manicured nails and gaps between their front teeth.
Intrigued, investigators exhumed Tent Girl's body to conduct DNA tests. They compared samples of Westbrook's saliva to cells taken from the dead woman's teeth and bones and found a perfect match. Tent Girl was Bobbie Anne Taylor.
This spring, Taylor was buried in Georgetown Cemetery. Among those who attended were Riddle, Matthews, Westbrook, and two other sisters.
What had happened to Bobbie Ann Taylor? The answer appears to lie with Earl Taylor, Bobbie's husband. In late 1967, Earl, a carnival worker, told Bobbie's family that she had left him. They never heard from her again.
Many people suspect that Earl may have killed his wife during an argument. They recall Earl Taylor as an impulsive, even violent man. Bobbie's body was found not far from I-75, the highway leading toward Ohio, where Earl's family lived. The canvas that Bobbie was found wrapped in resembles the kind used in carnivals.
But the final answer may never be known: Earl died 11 years ago.
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Written by David Kohn, with photo by Sidney Hisel