PECOS, Texas — Genealogy and DNA testing help police identify a Kansas teenager as the victim in a 54-year-old cold case.
Investigators in the west Texas town of Pecos said 17-year-old Jolaine Hemmy of Salina, Kansas, drowned in a pool at the Ropers Motel on July 5, 1966.
She checked into the motel with a man who’s never been identified.
During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Pecos Police Chief Lisa Tarango referred to a police report from 1966, where witnesses reported hearing a scream. Minutes after the scream a motel worker found Hemmy in the pool. Emergency crews rushed Hemmy to the hospital where she died.
According to investigators, Hemmy’s companion was in the couple’s room when she was found in the pool.
They said he went to the office and asked for the companion card used to check into the motel. He told the clerk he needed to be able to show it to confirm his identity at the hospital. Tarango said the man never arrived at the hospital and disappeared with Hemmy’s belongings from the motel.
Police reopened the cold case last year and exhumed Hemmy’s body. They took DNA samples, used genealogy, and located several pictures from the original investigation into her death.
After a long search and use of multiple labs, Tarango said detectives traveled to Salina to meet with Hemmy’s family.
“Talking to them last week was like talking to them 50 years ago,” Tarango said. “The emotion was just as raw and just as solid of their missing family member.”
Pecos police said Hemmy’s death remains under investigation. They asked anyone with information about Hemmy or the man she traveled with 54 years ago to call the Pecos Police Department.