Alabama police seek dead man's identity in 33-year-old cold case
On a warm day on Sept. 22, 1990, a 14-year-old boy walking near a creek bed in Opelika, Alabama, discovered the dead body of a young Black man with a single gunshot wound to his head, Opelika Police Department said.
For 33 years, investigators have been trying to learn the victim's identity, and are hoping that with new DNA advances, and the public's help, the time has come to solve this cold case mystery, Sgt. Alfred White with the Opelika Police Department told CBS News.
The victim was wearing six pairs of socks on each foot, a detail which White, an investigations supervisor, said seemed strange considering "it's not very cold here that time of year."
He was wearing size eight black Ellesse shoes, a white St. Louis Cardinals jersey-type shirt with red pinstripes, and Jordache blue jeans, police said.
The man could have been wearing the six pairs of socks because his shoes were much larger than his feet, White said.
The man, believed to be between 18 and 25 years old, had no tattoos and a piercing in his left ear, police said.
An autopsy conducted in Montgomery concluded the cause of death was homicide from a single gunshot wound, police said. Ballistics for the bullet, which is from a small-caliber gun, have not been matched because the gun used in the killing has not been recovered, White said.
No missing person reports matching his description were filed at the time, police said. Investigators at the time followed up on a number of leads but soon the case went cold, said White.
"He doesn't appear to be from the local area," said White, adding that the body was found not far from Interstate 85.
Opelika, a mid-size city in the Eastern part of the state, is a 30-minute drive from the Georgia border, and around two hours from Florida.
White added that Opelika was a small town, and even smaller in 1990, and said that while it sees its fair share of murders, "it is rare when we can't identify that person."
Investigators are currently working to enter identifying details into NamUS, the national clearinghouse for missing and unclaimed persons, White said. Currently, investigators are working to solve three cold cases in Opelika, he added.
Police are hoping to employ similar techniques they used to solve the cold case of "Opelika Jane Doe," who was believed to be a Black girl between 4 and 7 years old whose body was found in January of 2012 in Opelika, according to a news release on DNAsolves.com.
Investigators used DNA testing and genetic genealogy to identify her last year as Amore Joveah Wiggins, the release read.
This past January, the girl's father and stepmother, Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff, were arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, the release said. Lamar Vickerstaff was charged with murder, while Ruth was charged with failure to report a missing child.
Investigators discovered that Wiggins was never enrolled in school or reported missing, the release read, and they believe she was killed in 2010 or 2011.
For people with any information on this case or the identity of the victim, please contact the Opelika Police Department Detective Division at 334-705-5220, or the Secret Witness Hotline at 334-745-8665.
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