The murder of Sherri Ann Jarvis

For 41 years, the Walker County Jane Doe remained unidentified, after being found deceased by a truck driver on a patch of grass near the Sam Houston National Forest, approximately two miles north of Huntsville, Texas. She was discovered on the 1st November 1980.

Jane Doe had died from ligature strangulation, possibly caused by pantyhose. Fragments of a pantyhose, along with Jane Doe’s underwear, had been found inside the victim’s vaginal cavity. They were likely placed there as a way to stop bleeding, as the victim had been sexually assaulted both vaginally and anally with a large blunt instrument. No biological evidence was found to suggest she was conventionally raped.

Jane Doe also received a bad beating. There were bruises across her body, with her lips and right eyelid being excessively swollen. Her right shoulder also had a deep and visible bite mark. Both the sexual assault and beating had occurred prior to her death.

Initial investigations revealed that several witnesses saw Jane Doe on the night of the 31st October 1980, at South End Gulf station at around 6:30pm. One witness says that she got out of a blue 1973/1974 model Chevrolet Caprice, which had been driven by a white male. Jane Doe then proceeded to ask for directions to the Texas Department of Corrections Ellis Prison Farm. After getting the directions, Jane Doe left the station on foot.

Jane Doe was seen heading north on Sam Houston Avenue. She was then seen later the same evening at the Hitch’n’Post truck stop along interstate 45. She again asked for directions to the Texas Department of Corrections Ellis Prison Farm, claiming that she had a ‘friend’ waiting for her at this location. In response, a waitress drew a map that provided directions for the girl to follow.

The waitress confessed to police that she thought the girl was a runaway and that whilst they were talking Jane Doe informed her that she was from Rockport or Aransas Pass, Texas. Jane Doe also claimed to the waitress that she was 19 years old, and when the waitress doubted her age and asked if her parents knew where she was, Jane Doe simply replied: “Who cares?”.

Walker County Jane Doe. Credit: Carl Koppelman

Police questioned both inmates and staff at Ellis Farm Prison, but no one recognised Jane Doe. They also travelled to Rockport and Aransas to see if local law enforcement had any missing person reports that matched the profile. Schools in the districts were also contacted to see if any students matched the profile. Sadly, both of these enquiries turned up cold.

The case went cold until 2020 when the Walker County Sheriff’s Department partnered with Othram Incorporated to help identify this Jane Doe.

On November the 9th, 2021, the Walker County Sheriff’s Department announced that they had been able to successfully identify Walker County Jane Doe as 14-year-old Sherri Ann Jarvis. Sherri had run away from Stillwater, Minnesota in 1980.

At the age of 13, Sherri was placed into the care of state custody due to a large number of school absences. She had run away just after her 14th birthday, which is the 9th of March. The last time anyone was in contact with Sherri was when she wrote a letter to her mother from Denver in which she said she wanted to return home.

Her family released a statement thanking the dedication of everyone who had worked to identify Sherri, and provided the long-awaited, yet painful answers. Her family take comfort from the fact that Sherri has finally been identified, and thank everyone who visited her grave. They also emphasise the family’s wish for her murderer(s) to be brought to justice.

Police say that the investigation into Sherri’s murder is still ongoing, and they hope that they will be able to bring the poeple

Sherri Ann Jarvis. Credit: texasmonthly.com

For a not-so-fun fact: Carl Koppelman, the forensic artist who produced several reconstructions of Sherri, also produced reconstructions of Tammy Jo Alexander, and actually helped identify her.

This year, 2022, marked Sherri’s 56th birthday. In her honour, friends and family gave her a new headstone. It reads: “Sherri Ann Jarvis (Tati). March 9th 1966 – November 1 1980. Never alone and loved by many.”

Tags:

Unsolved, Murder, Mystery, USA, Child, True Crime

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