OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) – As of 2012, the remains of the young child found behind an RV in Alabama were known only as “Baby Jane Doe.” Police in Opelika announced on Thursday that they had identified the girl as Amore Joveah Wiggins and arrested her father as a suspect in her death.
Police Chief Shane Healey said investigators identified the girl by creating a genetic profile developed from DNA extracted from the remains and uploading it to a DNA database to look for relatives.
Police identified the girl’s father as Lamar Vickerstaff Jr., 50, and arrested him in Jacksonville, Florida and charged him with felony murder. Vickerstaff and his wife Ruth Vickerstaff, who is not the girl’s mother, have both been accused of failing to report a missing child.
It wasn’t immediately known if the Vickerstaffs have an attorney.
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Healey said the girl’s mother, Virginia’s Sherry Wiggins, lost sight of the child after a Virginia court awarded the Vickerstaffs legal and physical custody in 2009 and “has been searching for her ever since.”
“I’ve never seen so much dedication to this case in my entire career – to see a group of men and women coming together and looking for a name,” the police chief said.
Healey got emotional at times during the press conference, saying, “It felt really, really good to say her name out loud.”
Amore’s skull and bones were found on January 28, 2012 at a trailer park in Opelika, a town of about 30,000 people about 55 miles (89 kilometers) northeast of Montgomery.
Authorities believe Amore, who was born on New Year’s Day 2006, was between 4 and 7 years old when she was killed. An autopsy revealed she sustained 15 fractures to her skull, arms, legs, shoulders and ribs over the course of her life, Healey said. Forensic scientists also believe she was malnourished, he said.
“Amore suffered a terrible, terrible death,” said Captain Johnathan Clifton.
Police interviewed people who knew the family in any of the places they may have lived, including Alabama, Jacksonville, Florida. and Norfolk, Virginia to contact them if they have information about the family or child. Police said Lamar Vickerstaff grew up in Opelika and was in the process of retiring from the US Navy.
Police said early attempts to create a DNA profile for Jane Doe were unsuccessful due to the condition of the remains. But in 2022, two companies were able to extract DNA from the scalp and hair, and a genetic profile was created and uploaded to a DNA database. A genealogist who works closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children uses the genealogical profile to identify possible relatives and develop investigative leads, the police department said.
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