OPELIKA, Alabama (WRBL) – A little girl named Amore Wiggins is Opelika’s baby Jane Doe, according to police. Amore means love and affection, a symbolic revelation in a decades-old cold case where investigators were determined to find out who she was, what happened to her, and seek justice.
Take a moment to say her name out loud. Amore Wiggins.
Opelika Police confirm the arrest of Amore’s biological father, 50-year-old Lamar Vickerstaff, and his wife, 53-year-old Ruth Vickerstaff, by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in Florida. Opelika Police confirm that Lamar Vickerstaff serves in the United States Navy. The couple were arrested on Tuesday January 17 and are being held on an extradition warrant. Investigators confirm the couple are likely to face charges in connection with Amore’s death in Opelika, Alabama. Details and exact charges they face will be released at Thursday’s press conference, including the extradition process.
“In October 2022, Jane Doe’s father was identified as 50-year-old Lamar Vickerstaff Jr. Mr. Vickerstaff was born and raised in Opelika, Alabama, before enlisting in the US Navy. During his long Navy career, he lived in Norfolk, Virginia, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Jacksonville, Florida. In December 2022, Opelika Detectives traveled to Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, where Mr. Vickerstaff is currently based, to notify him of his daughter’s death. During the meeting, Mr. Vickerstaff gave investigators no information about Jane Doe’s identity. The detectives then met with Mr. Vickerstaff’s wife, Ruth Vickerstaff. Mrs. Vickerstaff, who has been married to Lamar since May 2006, told detectives she did not know his daughter or Jane Doe’s mother,” Chief Shane Healey said.
In December 2022, detectives met with 37-year-old Sherry Wiggins, who confirmed she was Jane Doe’s biological mother. Ms. Wiggins is from Norfolk, Virginia and said she gave birth to a baby girl named Amore Joveah Wiggins in January 2006. Ms Wiggins produced documents showing that Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff gained legal and physical custody of their daughter in 2009, at which time her visit to Amore was suspended. Ms Wiggins also produced documents showing she has paid child support to Lamar Vickerstaff continuously since 2009, police said.
“Detectives contacted school boards and children’s hospitals in several states where Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff lived and found that Amore was not enrolled at school or reported as a missing person. With this information, Opelika detectives met with the Lee County District Attorney’s Office to determine the charges related to the death of Amore Wiggins,” Chief Healey said.
Detectives say Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff were arrested on January 17, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. Lamar Vickerstaff was charged with felony murder and Ruth was arrested for failing to report a missing child. They are currently being held at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office awaiting extradition to Lee County, Ala.
The WRBL was told that recent advances in family DNA have helped investigators identify Amore. Opelika Police worked with Othram Inc. and used a technique called “forensic-grade genome sequencing” to create a DNA profile from the forensic evidence. Othram developed this technique and used it in many cases.
“This little girl suffered untold abuse before being murdered and justice delayed because we didn’t know who she was. It means a lot to us that we were able to help law enforcement restore their name and seek justice for them,” said Kristen Mittelman, Chief Development Officer, Othram Inc.
Police say once they were able to locate Amore’s mother, she was crucial in their search for answers in the case. Police say the mother tried to reconnect with Amore for several years after Vickerstaff was awarded custody. Police say her mother is not from Alabama and continued to make regular child support payments to Vickerstaff, unaware that the little girl was Opelika’s unidentified baby Jane Doe.
4,009 days ago, the child’s skull and other remains were unearthed near a trailer home near Hurst Street. On a cold Saturday, January 28, 2012, investigators arrived at the scene and Opelika’s baby Jane Doe Case was born. From that day on, investigators began an exhaustive search. Baby Jane Doe quickly became Opelika’s daughter and a top priority for the police.
“It’s a case that will stick in your memory and what we want more than anything else is to make a name for that face,” said Opelika’s Shane Healey. “She was severely abused and lived a hard life and it’s not fair at all what she went through. We just hope that if we just find out her name, we can do her some justice.”
When the remains were recovered, forensic testing determined that they were those of a young black girl. A long-sleeved pink shirt with heart buttons and ruffles was found near her body next to her hair. Forensics revealed that the child’s left eye was scarred and blind. Police believe she was severely abused and neglected prior to her murder.
Shortly after her body was found, police released a clay facial reconstruction showing what she might have looked like before her death. The reconstruction prompted members of the Greater Peace Community Church in Opelika to come forward and claim they had seen the child before but did not know her name or family. Police say they looked through Sunday school photos taken in the summer of 2011 and came across some that resembled the little girl found in the woods. The photos were released to the public, but no new information was generated.
On Wednesday, the mobile home and woodland where baby Jane Doe’s remains were located were again surrounded by yellow crime scene tape. Opelika Police confirmed they are serving with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a search warrant relating to the Baby Jane Doe case at the property. Police confirmed Vickerstaff has friends and family who lived in the area. Agents stood on the mobile home’s porch, apparently handling evidence bags. The area around the house and the front and back yard were cordoned off with tape.
The investigation recently led detectives outside of Alabama and other states where baby Jane Doe may have lived. Families in Norfolk and Chesapeake, Virginia, and Northampton, North Carolina, are being asked to look at reconstruction images and images of a little girl at the Greater Peace Church in Opelika taken in 2011. The girl in the photos is believed to have been Jane Doe when she was alive.
Investigators say the case is ongoing as they continue to learn more about Amore and her time with her father and his wife. If you have any information that may assist investigators, please contact the Opelika Police Department at (334) 705-5260 or the Secret Witness Hotline at (334) 745-8665. Reports can also be submitted via the Opelika Police Mobile App. You can remain anonymous.