Mississippi’s Escatawpa Jane Doe ID’d 44 years after her murder; She was murdered by serial killer, police say

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2021

More than four decades after an unidentified woman’s body was found murdered, Mississippi law enforcement investigators say they’ve discovered her identity and they say America’s most prolific serial killer murdered her.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Investigators said Tuesday they have identified the skeletal remains of a woman found in December 1977.

The woman known as “Escatawpa Jane Doe,” is now identified as Clara Birdlong, investigators said.

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They believe she was murdered by the late serial killer Samuel Little.

Birdlong’s body was found by hunters on Dec. 27, 1977, near Highway 613 and what is now Interstate 10.

Medical investigators at the time could only say she was a small in stature African-American woman with a distinctive front gold tooth and possibly wearing a wig. The body was found three or four months after she was killed, they said.

Her identity remained a mystery for decades, but investigators never gave up on finding out who she was.

In 2012, Pascagoula Police Investigator Darren Versiga uploaded the victim’s information to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, (NamUS). Early attempts to identify her through DNA analysis were unsuccessful.

A few years later in 2018, convicted serial killer Samuel Little confessed to numerous murders across the Southeast, including the murder of Escatawpa Jane Doe, whom he did not know by name.

Investigators confirmed Samuel Little was in Jackson County in 1977, during the approximate time frame of the woman’s death.

Little confessed to killing 93 people, nearly all women, between 1970 and 2005. He died in prison in 2020.

Investigators working with the Mississippi State Crime Lab and DNA research facility Othram Inc., began making a family tree based on Jane Doe’s DNA.

They eventually located two distant relatives, one of whom was Birdlong’s 93-year-old cousin. The woman told investigators that Birdlong, who was born around 1933, disappeared from Leflore County, Mississippi in the the 1970s.

Another cousin also remembers Birdlong, describing her as a small woman with a gold front tooth and said she wore a wige.

DNA testing proved the cousins were related to the body found in 1977, giving investigators the confirmation that they’d finally put a name for the woman who went nameless for more than four decades.

Samuel Little was arrested for theft in the area in 1977, meaning he was in the area at the time of the murder.