The Uknown Dead: A Look at Riverside County's Cold Cases
Photo: Video by kmir6.com
RIVERSIDE- In Riverside County, dozens of deaths remain a mystery. Bodies are found, but no one knows who they are or where they came from. Their cases that have gone cold, sometimes for decades.
The unknown dead are only known now as John and Jane Doe.
"It drives you crazy, you have this case and you are working it and working it and it's like what happened? What happened to this person?" said Riverside County Sgt. Coroner Deborah Gray.
It's up to Sgt. Gray and a small group of investigators to solve the unknown deaths. Some cases date back more than 60 years.
"We are the last voice for the dead...nobody else can speak for them," said Gray.
The body of one woman they are speaking for was found in 1992.
In a letter to a newspaper, a serial killer confessed to murdering her. Keith Jesperson-- a truck driver at the time--said he picked the woman up at truck stop. He then raped and killed her at a truck stop in Coachella. Her body was later found, severely decomposed, dumped nearly 100 miles away in Blythe. She had no identification on her. But, the killer said her name was Claudia.
"We've searched about 36 other females that went missing about the same time across the U.S. and Canada. No hits at all," said Gray.
There are challenges to solving these cases: time, money, resources, and finding someone who knows the victim.
"With Claudia we are asking all the right questions, but we have no clue because no one is looking for her, and I think that's our biggest problem. If nobody is looking for you, we are never going to find them," said Gray.
The county buries each unidentified body. When investigators find more evidence they can exhume the bodies even decades after they're found, hoping for a breakthrough.
They got a breakthrough with the case of 13-year-old Jamie Trotter. He disapeared in 1979.
A man named James Crummel said he found bones while hiking ten years after the boy vanished. Braces linked the bones to the 13-year-old.
Investigators eventually tied Crummel to the kidnapping and murder of Jamie Trotter. In 2004 the boy's killer was sentence to death after a long journey to justice. But as one case is solved, dozens of others remain a mystery.
"If you have the magic button where you could find out what happened to this person, where did they come from, who did they meet, who didn't they meet and what led them down this path and who to they belong to, that would be my one wish," said Gray.
Is there someone you know who went missing? Could you have the clue to help solve a county mystery? Visit: http://www.riversidesheriff.org/coroner/unidentified/