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Body of baby found in 1982 cold case has been identified, mother still missing

Updated: Dec. 4, 2020 at 5:56 PM CST
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JACKSON COUNTY, MS. (WALA)- A major break in a decades old cold case. Jackson County, Mississippi investigators know the identity of a baby they found dead in the Escatawpa River near the Alabama/Mississippi state line in 1982. Her name is Alisha Heinrich. She was once known as Baby Jane Doe or Delta Dawn because nobody ever claimed her.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell made the announcement Friday.

“Baby Jane has been identified as Alisha Ann Heinrich, daughter of Gwendolyn Clemons, both of whom went missing in Missouri in 1982,” Sheriff Ezell said.

On December 3, 1982, a citizen reports seeing a woman walking westbound on Interstate 10 around the state line. The woman was said to be carrying a small child and refused assistance.

Then on December 5, 1982, A truck driver saw a woman’s body floating in the water, close to the bridge. He called 911 and and Jackson County Flotilla Captain Louis Seaman, just 16 years old at the time, was the first on scene. It was a horrific sight that’s never left him.

“The picture of her in there...the only difference is..she’s not in that checkered dress..that’s the only difference...I mean it...I’m done...” Seaman said as he walked off from FOX10 News interview, overcome with emotion and wiped away tears.

In 2009, baby Alisha’s body was exhumed from a Jackson County grave. Her DNA sent off and put on NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, but no matches.

A year ago, a New York woman, fascinated by the case online, offered to pay to have Alisha’s DNA sent to a different lab. Othram Incorporated Lab in Woodlands, Texas was able to match Alisha’s DNA with her family through a genealogy report. Othram Lab then gave investigators a report of Possible family members.

In August and September, Jackson County Investigators traveled to Missouri to talk to possible family members who then identified Alisha and her mom, Gwendolyn Clemons. Clemons’ whereabouts are still unknown. Her family told investigators, the two left with a man on Thanksgiving in 1982.

Sheriff Ezell said, “Investigators learned, the three of them were supposed to travel to Florida and start a new life and then days after leaving town, Alisha’s body was discovered in Jackson County, Mississippi.”

The family hoped she was still alive, grown and living her life in Florida. Because of that, they never knew about the case in Mississippi so they never claimed Alisha.

But dozens of deputies, many now retired, would never let Alisha be forgotten.

One former investigator said, “It stayed with me for a long time and today it’s back with me again.”

Another former investigator said, “After 38 years, this is the only case that’s haunted many of us.”

It’s maybe even a little more haunting for former deputy, Virgil Moore.

Moore said, “If I wouldn’t have gotten her, she’d be in the grave somewhere, but there wouldn’t be a marker.”

Moore made sure Alisha had a proper burial at a church in 1982. He was even one of the investigators to exhume her body in 2009.

The 83 year old wasn’t sure he would ever see this day.

Moore said, “It actually brought me to tears because I’ve been waiting 38 years and I didn’t think I’d live long enough to know who that baby is.”

Unfortunately, this case isn’t solved. It’s still unclear what happened to baby Alisha and her mother. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell said the man whom the two left with in 1982, is a suspect, but he died a few years ago.