Doña Ana County



A new composite sketch of an unidentified girl found dead in the desert north of Las Cruces nearly 27 years ago has renewed hope among investigators that the victim may finally be identified.

Doña Ana County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call on March 10, 1985, after rabbit hunters stumbled upon human remains off Interstate 25 near Upham. The remains included a lower human jaw bone, which had been buried in a shallow grave.

Through autopsy, the New Mexico Office of the Medical Examiner determined the body was that of a Caucasian female, between 16 and 19 years old, with a slight build and blonde or light brown hair. Based on the condition of the remains, the autopsy suggests the victim’s body was likely buried three to six months prior to being discovered.

During the initial investigation, a clay reconstruction was created using the skeletal remains of her face. Images of that reconstruction were distributed to the media, but did not result in any solid leads.

Recently, an in-house sketch artist at the Office of the Medical Examiner created a newer, hand-drawn image of the girl. Cold-case investigator Ben Venable says while the drawing isn’t an exact likeness, it’s a significant step forward.

“There are several possibilities that could explain why we haven’t been able to match this girl with other missing people matching her description,” Venable said of the various theories he and other investigators have researched. “But this person was someone’s child, and somewhere, a family deserves to have closure.”

Venable, who has been close to the case since 1987, says that because this case is an ongoing, open investigation, little information about the manner of death or condition of the body can be released. He can say, however, that based on the clothes she was wearing, she was likely not a transient.

“We have compared all reported missing persons of similar description, but would like to encourage anyone with knowledge of a missing person matching this description to contact us. There is always the possibility that a missing person has not been reported up until now.”

Anyone who might recognize the person in the sketch or has information on where her family may be located is asked to call the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department Cold Case Unit, (575) 525-1911.