Killers who got away with murder

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by Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on April 3, 2012 at 9:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 4 at 11:41 AM

PHOENIX -- They died robbed of the one thing they were born with -- their name.

Of the 70 unidentified bodies in Phoenix, approximately a dozen are murder victims. Yet, detectives search for their killers even though all odds are against them.

"With any homicide case, identifying your victim is really step one," said Phoenix police Detective Stuart Somershoe.

In August 1983, a naked woman was discovered in the dirt along a canal near East Williams Field Road.

"Basically thrown away like trash," Somershoe said.

An autopsy not only revealed she had been smothered but also, "Someone had spent a lot of money fixing her teeth," according to Somershoe. "She had a noticeable gap in her top front teeth, on the bottom she a dental implant that would have shown a silver wire."

In June 1987, a man was attacked in an alley near Seventh Avenue. Somershoe also wants to give him his name back.

"Witnesses describe his face being pushed into the pavement repeatedly and then he was beat with a stick," Somershoe said. "He was transported to the hospital, never regained consciousness, never said his name or provided any kind of identification."

Both Jane and John Doe ended up buried in paupers graves in Tempe. Thanks to a grant from the Department of Justice, the Medical Examiner's Officer recently exhumed their bodies.

"Even though we may not have a lead on the case, they're not forgotten," said Christen Eggers, a medicolegal death investigator.

In the 1980s, technology was limited.

"DNA wasn't taken, dental wasn't taken on a lot of the cases and the documentation of the descendant wasn't as specific as we would have liked it," according to Eggers. "We'll look at the cases to see if there is anything more that can be done. Run the fingerprints again, look at the file again see if we missed something, and use a new technology to try and help identify this person."

A Valley woman drowned near Seventh and Campbell avenues in 2001.

"We don't know whether she was pushed or she jumped, whether she fell in, so without identifying her we really can't proceed in trying to find out what happened to her," Somershoe explained.

Two clues stand out. She was wearing a crucifix ring and had psychiatric medication in her system.

"So we're asking for people who might have known them -- neighbors, co-workers, a doctor, someone knew this woman," Somershoe said.

Someone probably knew another woman, as well. Unfortunately, when she was killed in a hit-and-run accident, no one came forward to report her missing.

"It was a red Ford Escort that actually struck her and we know that because pieces of the car were left behind," Somershoe said.

Just after midnight in November 2004, someone pummeled into her at 15th Street and East Broadway Road.

"She probably lived in that area," according to Somershoe. "She didn't have her ID with her, so she was probably just crossing the street so someone in that area probably knows this woman."

So her killer, like all the rest, remains at large to this day. A fact that haunts detectives like Somershoe, daily.

"We hate seeing people get away with murder," he said.

If you'd like to review the files and photos regarding the above cases, visit the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Website

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