Murder of Marcia King
Marcia Lenore King|
June 9, 1959
Little Rock, Arkansas
April 22, 1981 (aged 21) |
Troy, Miami County, Ohio
|Cause of death||Homicide by strangulation|
|Body discovered||April 24, 1981|
|Resting place||Riverside Cemetery, Troy, Miami County, Ohio, United States|
|Known for||Formerly unidentified victim of homicide|
Marcia Lenore King was a previously unidentified murder victim discovered in 1981 in Miami County, Ohio, near the city of Troy. During the years that her identity was unknown, she was nicknamed "Buckskin Girl," after the tasseled buckskin jacket that she had been wearing at the time of her death. King may have been murdered by a serial killer who had killed many sex workers or dancers in the area, although this specific case had no indication of sexual activity.
Nearly 37 years after her body was found, the Miami County Sheriff Department formally identified "Buckskin Girl" as Marcia King of Arkansas. She was 21 at the time of her death.
Discovery and death
King's body was found on April 24, 1981, in a ditch along Greenlee Road in Newton Township, west of Troy, Ohio, after police responded to a call stating that a woman's body had been found along a road. A passerby had first noticed the victim's poncho and soon after discovered the victim's body. The woman had been placed along the road in a fetal position on her right side without shoes or socks. The victim had suffered trauma to the head and neck, was strangled and had a lacerated liver.
Authorities believed that she had been killed elsewhere and left on the road after her death. They concluded this because her bare feet were clean, showing no indication of walking on dirt, and because Interstate 75 is just five miles (8 km) away, making it a convenient and discreet drop-off spot. It had been speculated that she may have been a teenage runaway or a possible victim of a serial killer who had murdered multiple sex workers in the region. However, the scene showed no signs of sexual assault, rape or other sexual activity, indicating that she had not been a sex worker. Because of the absence of footwear, some believe she may have been murdered by an abusive significant other. A retired investigator stated that the victim was not likely from the area where she was found.
The young woman's naturally reddish-brown hair was braided into pigtails on both sides of her head. Blue rubber bands had been used to hold the braids in place. Her eyes were a "light brown" and she had many freckles across her face. Her nose was described to be "very pointed" as well. Her personal hygiene was described to be well maintained, and all of her teeth, including the wisdom teeth, were in good condition and had no evidence of fillings or other dental work, except for a porcelain crown on her upper-right incisor. The victim had a ruddy complexion, indicating she spent a lot of time outdoors. She was between 5 ft 4 in (163 cm) and 5 ft 6 in (168 cm) tall and weighed 125–130 pounds (57–59 kg). Several scars were also found on the body, including a vertical scar under the chin, on one wrist, the arms and the ankle. Her bra size was 32D.
She wore Wrangler jeans, a patterned brown and orange turtleneck pullover sweater, a white bra, as well as a deerskin poncho that appeared to have been handmade with purple lining. She wore no shoes or socks.
The body was autopsied on the afternoon that it was discovered. The coroner officially ruled her death as being the result of strangulation. Early efforts to identify the Buckskin Girl involved the creation of a sketch of the face that would be published in local newspapers and television networks on April 28, 1981. About two hundred leads were followed as a result of the media attention, yet none resulted in any solution. She was eventually buried, but her clothing remains in storage at the local police department.
Because of the short time the victim had been deceased, it was possible to obtain her fingerprints. Her dental information and DNA were also taken. In 2008, the victim was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System where her fingerprint, dental and DNA information were made available for law enforcement. 226 missing women and girls had been ruled out as possible identities of the victim Some believed that she had been a runaway teenager or a transient wanderer, although her excellent personal hygiene suggested that she had access to hygiene products not too long before her death. Since her body was located near a town road instead of a highway, the probability of her being a "wanderer" for a significant amount of time was initially thought to be negligible. Authorities stated that the likely reason why she has remained unidentified for so long was due to her dying far from where she originated, also stating she had not spent a long period of time in Ohio.
In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released a forensic facial reconstruction of the victim and added her case to their website, depicting her with and without her braided hairstyle. Later that year, the Miami County Police Department approved forensic palynology tests on the victim's clothing, which suggested that she had spent time in the Northeastern part of the United States, as well as in the Western part of the country, or northern Mexico. Soot particles were also found on some of her clothing, which suggested she had been in a populous region, most likely near vehicles. Isotope testing showed she had spent a total of around four months in areas such as Fort Worth, Texas and southern Oklahoma, spending two months there on two separate occasions.
Serial killer theory
Some investigators speculate that King was the first of many victims killed by an unidentified serial killer who perpetrated his murders in the 1980s and 1990s, continuing until 2004, in Ohio. Such a serial killer was suspected to have killed approximately seven to ten other women, presumed prostitutes and exotic dancers, in Ohio. In 1991, a press conference preceded the creation of a task force which attempted to connect various murders in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois. These cases were originally connected by a reporter who discovered similarities between unsolved murders in the area.
On an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, the case was briefly detailed along with several other cases connected to the unidentified serial killer. The program connected this case with the murders of Shirley Dee Taylor, Anna Marie Patterson, Hebron Jane Doe (identified in 2017 as Patrice Corley) and other murder cases. All of the victims had been beaten or strangled and had some clothing or jewelry missing. She wore no jewelry, had her footwear removed, and died in a similar manner to that of the other victims.
There are, however, several indications disputing this theory. The victim was missing shoes when she was found, but there was no indication that she had participated in any sexual activity prior to death. Furthermore, she was fairly well-groomed, unlike many of the other victims. Some, like Corley had participated in sexual activity before their deaths, a factor which indicated that they were sex workers. Also diverging from the theory, Patterson's body had been wrapped in a sleeping bag and was likely stored in a refrigerated area for "nearly a month" before it was located on the side of a highway.
It is thought that the women who may have been victims of the serial killer could have met with a man at a truck stop while working as prostitutes. In the case of Anna Marie Patterson, there was a suspect, identified over a CB radio as "Dr. No", believed to be between the ages of 25 and 40. Patterson's husband, who was involved with her work as a sex worker, stated that she was uncomfortable accepting the man's requests, as other local prostitutes, some speaking over the radio, had expressed that they were suspicious of the man and did not wish to meet with him. Police have suspected that this person may have been her killer, and that he may also have been involved in the death of King.
Earlier, it was presumed that she had been a victim of a different span of killings, known as the Redhead murders, but this theory has been ruled out. Early speculation also made a connection to the murder of a 27-year-old woman in February 1981, yet police never made an official link between these two murders.
The match between King and the unidentified victim was confirmed on April 9, 2018 through DNA analysis performed by the "DNA Doe Project" and Full Genomes Corporation. King was originally from Little Rock, Arkansas. She had not officially been reported missing, although her family continued to search for her. King's mother resided at the same residence and kept the same phone number in case her daughter would ever contact her.
She will remain buried at the Riverside Cemetery, but the headstone reading "Jane Doe" will eventually be replaced to bear her name.
Reconstructions of King based on morgue photographs, created in effort to identify her.
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Cited works and further reading
- Halber, Deborah (2015). The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-451-65758-6.
- Katz, Hélèna (2010). Cold Cases: Famous Unsolved Mysteries, Crimes, and Disappearances in America. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-37692-4.
- Murray, Elizabeth A. (2012). Forensic Identification: Putting a Name and Face on Death. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 978-1-467-70139-6.
- Newton, Michael (2004). The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 978-0-816-07818-9.
- Pettem, Silvia (2017). The Long Term Missing: Hope and Help for Families. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-442-25680-4.
- Shoester, Maria (2006). Forensics in Law Enforcement. New York: Nova Science Publishers Inc. ISBN 978-1-600-21164-5.
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