Walker County detectives identify victim of 41-year-old murder

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 10:15 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2021 at 5:57 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - Investigators in Walker County released new information in the “Walker County Jane Doe” case, a 41-year-old murder mystery.

A teenage girl was found along Interstate 45 on Nov. 1, 1980 by a truck driver. She had been raped, strangled and left for dead. After extensive investigation and DNA testing, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office can finally identify the “Jane Doe” as Sherri Ann Jarvis .

Jarvis arrived in Huntsville on Oct. 31, 1980. Witnesses say they saw her at a truck stop where she asked for directions to get to the Ellis Unit Work Farm, telling people she was from the Rockport area. The next day around 9 a.m., she was found dead on the side of the road.

The sheriff’s office said in July 2020, Detective Thomas Bean, who has been assigned to the case since 2015, and other investigators sent samples to a lab to begin forensic DNA testing. In March 2021, six people were identified as being direct relatives or aunts and uncles of Jane Doe.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without everybody that’s standing up here,” Bean said.

Investigators used internet resources to fill out a family tree and interviewed her family members. They were able to discover that Jarvis was removed from her home in Stillwater, Minnesota for habitual truancy. Her family said she wrote a letter to them shortly after she was removed from the home that she would return. When she was found, Jarvis was 14-years-old.

”DNA samples were obtained from biological family members and turned over to Othram Labs to be compared to the DNA sample for Jane Doe. With a match, all of the evidence was then compiled and released to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science where they confirmed the fact that we had an identity on Jane Doe as being Sherri Jarvis,” said Sheriff Clint McRae of Walker County.

“Tissue samples were taken from the original autopsy. Othram labs was able to obtain a DNA profile and the samples were used to start building a family tree,” said McRae.

A lab in The Woodlands used new techniques in what’s called Forensic Grade Genome Sequencing to help unravel this long mystery.

“What we do is we can take evidence that is very old, that has previously been unsuitable or unusable in other methods and traditional testing processes and we can pull genetic markers,” said David Mittelman, Othram Inc. CEO.

The Houston FBI Field Office announced they will be the hub for this investigative genealogy technique.

“This is an extraordinary case as the sheriff said and we’re putting resources together and using technology to solve some of our older cases that we have,” said Special Agent Torrence White of the FBI.

Investigators said they are still tracking down some promising leads on who her killer might be, but so far no one has been brought to justice for this crime.

“From a prosecutor’s perspective I just hope that this information will lead us to whoever did this and if they are alive they’ll be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Will Durham, Walker County Criminal District Attorney.

Jarvis’s family released a statement to the public with a Deputy Marlene Wells of the Walker County Sheriff’s Office speaking for them at the press conference:

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Detective Thomas Bean and all cooperating agencies and people involved in identifying Sherri Ann Jarvis’ remains. We would also like to express our gratitude to Morris Memorials for donating Sherri’s headstone and all the people who visited her burial site throughout the years. We lost Sherri more than 41 years ago and we’ve lived in bewilderment every day since, until now as she has finally been found.

We contacted the Salvation Army and hired a private investigator in an attempt to locate her but to no avail. The dedication of the aforementioned people led to our reunion with Sherri and provided long awaited, albeit painful answers to our questions on her whereabouts. Sherri Ann Jarvis was a daughter, sister, cousin and granddaughter. She loved children, animals and horseback riding.

She was a tender 13 years of age when the state removed her from our home for habitual truancy. Sherri never returned to our home as promised in a letter we received from her shortly after her departure. She was deprived of so many life experiences as a result of this tragedy. She was denied the opportunity to experience romance and love, marital bliss, the heartache and pain of loss, the pure joy of having children or growing old and being able to reflect on such milestones afforded an abounding lifetime.

Our parents passed away never knowing what happened to her or having any form of closure but we are grateful that they never had to endure the pain of knowing her death was so brutal. We take a measure of comfort in knowing that she has been identified and where she is located so we may pay our respects at her final resting place. We will continue to support those seeking her killer(s) because she did not deserve the death she received and justice served to those who would commit such a heinous act would be fitting tribute to Sherri. We love and miss Sherri very much. You are with mom and dad now, Sherri, may you rest in peace.

We have our previous story here.

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