Is a 34 Year Old Murder Case Connected to New Bethany Home for Girls?

unidentified homicide victim

A composite drawing from LSU FACES Laboratory shows what investigators believe a woman found dead on Jan. 28, 1981, may have looked like before she was stabbed to death four to six weeks before her body was located in a wooded area in east-central Bossier Parish.

Rebecca Catalanello writes:

Her stab-pocked body was found in the woods off a public logging trail in north Louisiana on Jan. 28, 1981. She was in her late teens or early 20s and had been dead for four to six weeks, a coroner determined. There were scribbles on her sneakers, including a name written on the inside: “D. Davies.” It looked like she had removed the braces from her teeth.

In 34 years, no one has identified the body of the 5-foot-6 blonde found off Louisiana Highway 157. But now Bossier Parish law enforcement officials are investigating a potential link between the woman they now call “Bossier Doe” and a notorious girls home 40 miles away.

Lt. Shannon Mack, lead detective in Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office cold case No. 81-018329, said she first learned of New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, after creating a public Facebook profile for Bossier Doe on Friday (Feb. 6) in an attempt to generate more leads. She has since reached out to former New Bethany residents for help.

Open from 1971 to 2001, New Bethany marketed itself as a boarding school for troubled girls. Youth came from across the country, some court-ordered, others by request of parents or guardians. Bienville Parish law enforcement and nearby residents became accustomed to encountering runaways from the strict, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist home, located behind barbed wire fences in a rural area off of Louisiana Highway 9.

Simone Jones, 47, a former resident who herself scaled the fences and ran to law enforcement seeking an escape, said that when Mack reached out to her about the 1981 case Sunday, her mind started spinning.

Jones, who was at the home from 1981 to 1984, said that while she doesn’t remember anyone by this name or description, details about Bossier Doe’s case were reminiscent of New Bethany:

  • Girls were required to write their names in marker on the insides of their shoes and on all their clothes, as it appeared someone did inside the victim’s shoes. When Bossier Doe was found, she was wearing size 7 Evonne Goolagong brand, a washable canvas sneaker sold by Sears. Other names were scribbled in ink on the outside of the shoes, including “Resha,” “David” and “Dena & Michael Brisco.”
  • Bossier Doe was wearing white athletic socks with blue and yellow stripes, Mack said. The New Bethany uniform at the time included white athletic socks with stripes on them. Jones said the uniform required the stripes be red or blue. “But there were other colors around,” she said.
  • To date, law enforcement has found no indication anyone by this young woman’s description was ever reported missing. It’s well-established that many of the girls of New Bethany were often disconnected from their families — either by force of the school’s rules, by circumstance that led them there, or both. In 2013, for example, Bienville Parish Sheriff John Ballance told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune that after he encountered an 18-year-old runaway from New Bethany in 1975, he contacted her father by phone and was told the man wanted nothing to do with her.

Here’s another detail that raised interest of the former New Bethany residents.

Bossier Doe had bonding residue from braces on her teeth, Mack said, which led investigators to believe either she or someone else had removed her braces without the help of a professional.

Teresa Frye, 47, another former resident who Mack reached Sunday, said that detail stood out to her. When Frye arrived at New Bethany in 1982 from North Carolina, she was taken to have her braces professionally removed earlier than her orthodontist had instructed. Frye said she believes it was done so that she wouldn’t require additional medical care while at the home.

Many former New Bethany residents interviewed by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune since 2013 have described being denied medical care, a complaint that was also documented in a child welfare investigation in the 1980s. It would not be implausible, said Jones and Frye, for a resident to attempt to remove her own braces.

Mack said she is looking to speak with anyone whose memory might be jogged by the details of this girl’s death…

You can read the entire post here.

If you have not read Sex Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls, I encourage you to do so.

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5 Comments

  1. Steve

    Woww. No words on this one.

    Reply
  2. kittybrat

    My heart breaks for her. I want someone to have missed her. OH, I want someone to have wondered where she was, to have agonized over not knowing… because if no one ever did these things, how much more awful for her.

    Someone will, I hope, eventually recognize her and find closure.

    Reply
  3. Simone Jones

    I agree with you kittybrat. My heart has been aching for her. Over the horrific way in which her life was taken, and how she was just left on the side of the road, in the woods, alone…

    I too hope that her family has been looking for her, and that they finally get some answers and some closure as well <3

    Reply
  4. Angiep

    If she was a runaway or somehow ended up at Bethany without her family knowing, they could have been looking for her for decades without knowing where to look. Thus no report being made about her disappearance. (Just a theory.) The violent nature of her death makes me wonder if she escaped from the “school” and crossed paths with a predator, perhaps someone promising to help her. A very sad story. Hopefully the cold case team will resolve it.

    Reply
  5. marcia

    I remember a runaway who was never found her name was April Dawn. k came to New Bethany in April 1980 to May 1982 and graduated from there. My name was Marcia Ray. My old friend mention she was watcher for a girl name Heidi and she came in Noember 1980 and runaway soon after she saw the pic of her it looks vaguly familar but she remember with straighter hair and a thinner face but same color hair and blue eyes she thinks she was from New york and she she had braces

    Reply

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