A NamUs Case Study
Written by Silvia Pettem   

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Note: This article is an excerpt from an upcoming book by Silvia Pettem, Cold Case Research: Resources for Unidentified, Missing,


and Cold Homicide Cases, scheduled for publication in 2012 by CRC Press.

Name: Paula Beverly Davis
NamUs case #: UP #985
Person Missing: August 9, 1987, Kansas City, Missouri
Body Found: August 10, 1987, Englewood, Ohio
Body Identified: December 11, 2009

AT 3 O’CLOCK in the morning of August 9, 1987, the roommate of Paula Beverly Davis called the Beverly household, saying that Paula had not come home as expected. The roommate said she had last seen her at a truck stop near the exit at Oak Grove, Missouri, on Interstate 70.

Within hours, Paula’s mother, Esther Beverly, filed a detailed missing-person report, even noting a bleached-out spot on the back pocket of Paula’s blue jeans. And, of most importance many years later, Esther Beverly specified that her daughter had two tattoos: a unicorn on her right breast and a red rose with green leaves on her left breast.

Since Paula was an adult, her family was told that she might have left willingly, although the family was certain that Paula would not have left without telling anyone. All the police agreed to do was to give Esther Beverly a copy of the report, which she filed away. Although deeply worried and concerned, Paula’s parents, her youngest sister, Stephanie, and a middle sister, Alice, held out hope that she was alive.

A couple of years after Paula’s disappearance, the extended family moved from Kansas City to a smaller town and eventually to rural Missouri, where they remained physically and emotionally close to one another. Esther Beverly died in 2005, never knowing what happened to her oldest child.

Found: “Jane Doe”

Meanwhile, nearly 600 miles to the east, near Englewood, Montgomery County, Ohio, an unidentified white female’s semi-nude body was found near an eastbound ramp off Interstate 70. The date was August 10, 1987—the day after Esther Beverly reported Paula missing in Missouri.

The Montgomery County, Ohio, Coroner’s Office examined Jane Doe and estimated that she was between 17 and 25 years of age, approximately 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and weighed 125 pounds. The cause of her death was “ligature strangulation.” The unidentified Caucasian woman had brown eyes and brown hair, was wearing blue jeans and a blue headband
––and she had a tattoo of a unicorn on her right breast and a red rose with green leaves on her left breast.

Ohio authorities delegated their unidentified victim to a grave in Westmont Cemetery south of Dayton.

Englewood, Ohio’s “Jane Doe”
and Paula Beverly Davis

Though she was buried, Jane Doe was not entirely forgotten. Englewood (Ohio) Police Department Sergeant Mike Lang had started his law-enforcement career as a dispatcher when he was still in college. Even then, he got teletypes with possible leads on the unknown victim. None of the tips at the time, however, led to her identification. Lang started working as a detective in 2000 and remembers her case being passed from one detective to another. “We knew we had a woman who was savagely murdered,” he told a reporter in 2010, “but we had no idea who she was.”

Unfortunately, the above scenario—a missing person in one state and an unidentified person in another—is still far too common. For more than two decades, no one made the connection between Missouri’s missing person and Ohio’s unidentified remains.

In the spring of 2009, however, former Chief Deputy Investigator Harry Brown, along with Ken Betz, director of both the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office and its crime laboratory, entered descriptions of their handful of unidentified-remains cases into NamUs-UP. This unidentified-persons database is linked to NamUs-MP (the missing-persons database) to form the National Institute of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

“The Englewood Jane Doe case from 1987 was one of the first we entered into NamUs-UP,” said Dr. James H. Davis, longtime coroner of Montgomery County, having been associated with the coroner’s office since 1975. “We learned of NamUs through the National Association of Medical Examiners, and we discussed its value—as far as everyone being able to investigate—at meetings of the National Institute of Justice. We were hopeful that it would bring closure to families.”

A few months later, in October 2009, one of Stephanie Beverly Clack’s family members told her about a Public Service Announcement that had aired after a television episode of The Forgotten. The PSA gave a brief explanation of the NamUs searchable website. Stephanie and her sister, Alice, decided to give it a try.

The two women, now in their 30s, sat down at their computer with a copy of Paula’s missing-person report and started plugging in Paula’s basic identifying information to the NamUs-UP website. The first parameters the sisters entered were Paula’s sex: female; age: 21; race: white; and Missouri—the state where she was last seen alive. But no cases came up as a result of their first search… so they removed Missouri from the criteria and tried the search again.

The second attempt produced ten search results. Stephanie and Alice read through the first nine and ruled out all of them. Then, they got to the very last profile, that was a description of an unidentified female found in Montgomery County, Ohio––complete with a tattoo of a unicorn on her right breast and a red rose with green leaves on her left breast.

“We knew, right away, it was Paula,” said Stephanie. “The search only took about 30 minutes. Initially, we didn’t believe that we would find her. We just started crying.”

Still in shock, Stephanie called the contact number listed on the website—the Englewood Police Department. Her call, however, was on a weekend, so she had to wait until the next business day. As soon as she spoke with a detective, Stephanie emphatically told him that Englewood’s “Jane Doe” was her sister. She explained about the tattoos and even mentioned the bleached-out spot on the back pocket of Paula’s blue jeans. An incredulous man’s voice on the other end of the line told Stephanie that he had examined the jeans in his evidence room, and, sure enough, the bleached-out spot was still there.

Forensics, and bringing Paula home

On December 11, 2009, DNA typing—using a buccal swab from Paula’s father; biological evidence that the Englewood Police Department had collected from the crime scene; and samples the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office had preserved from the autopsy—positively identified the Ohio victim as Paula Beverly Davis.

As Stephanie found out when she called the Englewood Police Department, the police had kept Paula’s clothing—but tissue samples, rape-kit contents, and anything on or about the body is maintained by the coroner’s office.

“We thought about new technology in the future and kept samples of our victims’ DNA, long before DNA was even used in identifications,” said Dr. Davis. “Providing the information to solve this victim’s identity is critical to the resolution of this case. NamUs is an extremely useful tool.”

The Beverly family raised money through donations to help pay for the exhumation, cremation, and reburial of Paula. In June 2010, Paula’s remains were laid to rest near her mother back home in Missouri.

About the Author

Silvia Pettem is a cold-case historian based in Boulder, Colorado. She is the author of more than a dozen books including Someone’s Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe and Behind the Badge: 125 Years of the Boulder Colorado Police Department. Pettem’s latest book, Cold Case Research: Resources for Unidentified, Missing, and Cold Homicide Cases, is scheduled to be published in 2012 by CRC Press. To learn more, you can visit her website: www.silviapettem.com

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