Clay County cold case investigators reveal name of victim found in 1985, hope clue helps solve mystery

CLAY COUNTY, Mo. -- There’s a new clue in a cold case murder that’s been unsolved for 32 years.  Thursday, investigators revealed what they believe is the victim’s name—Darlene.  They’re hopeful that clue could uncover more about who Darlene was and who killed her.

Neighbors off 210 Highway and Boyer Road can still remember the grisly discovery made in a farm field more than 30 years ago.

“They had it all quarantined off and darn near every day after had officers out here for quite a while,” said neighbor Rich Edwards during a 2016 interview with FOX 4.

Edwards says his neighbor’s dogs dug up pieces of a human skull.  That was back on April 18, 1985.

“They found skeletal remains of a body.  All these years, the female had been identified as a white female, 18-22 years old,” said Deputy Jesse Stoker with the Clay County Sheriff’s Department cold case homicide squad.

The young woman had been killed anywhere from eight months to two years before that.  She was shot three times, execution style, and left dead in the field.  A sketch of what the victim might’ve looked like, and a barrette found at the scene, were later linked to the victim.  Ever since, detectives have gone over a million scenarios.

“Was she a criminal?  Was she not?  Was she a runaway?  Was she abused?”  said Deputy Stoker.

Last October, detectives got a big new lead.  The victim’s skull was sent to scientists at the University of North Texas.  They determined the victim was actually a black female between 17 and 23 years old.  The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children put together a new sketch, based on those details and a comprehensive scan of the skull done at KU Medical Center.

“Shortly thereafter, Crime Stoppers received a call from someone who said they believed this person was someone they knew as Darlene,” said Deputy Stoker.

The tipster said she and Darlene used to work together at an envelope company in the Northland.  She wasn’t certain on Darlene’s last name, but said she had two kids, lived in KCK and sometimes they’d carpool together.  Since then, the cold case team has tracked down a few other former co-workers.

“We talked to a few people who said yes, that looks like the girl that worked on the first shift and was a machine operator but could not remember her name.  Another person said, ‘Yeah.  I believe her name was Darlene and she used to hang out with so and so,’” Deputy Stoker said.

Now, investigators are hoping the name Darlene, and the image of her, might trigger memories for someone else.  If they can pin down her last name, it will open up all kinds of new avenues to learn more about who she was and who killed her.

“This is someone’s child, someone’s mother we believe now.  If it was my family member, I’d certainly want someone, no matter how small or how big of an effort, to keep looking,” said Deputy Stoker.

Of course if you think you recognize Darlene, or have any information that might help, contact the Clay Co. Sheriff’s Office at (816) 407-3700 or by email at coldcase@sheriffclayco.com.  You can also leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling (816) 960-6800.