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Family finds sister's remains, now wants killer

Family finds sister's remains, now wants killer

March 7th, 2011 in News

KANSAS CITY (AP) - It took two decades for Stephanie Clack to find out that her big sister who disappeared in 1987 is dead. Now she wants to know who killed her.

"This just eats at me, you know," Clack said. "It's been a year in October since we found her, and DNA came back to prove it's her. ... and nobody wants to get up and investigate this."

The body of Clack's sister, Paula Beverly Davis, was found on an Interstate U.S. 70 entrance ramp on Aug. 10, 1987, in Montgomery County, Ohio, about two days after Clack last saw her at the family's home outside Kansas City. Investigators couldn't identify the body then, but determined the 21-year-old woman had been strangled.

The case remained a Jane Doe homicide investigation in Ohio until last year.

That was when Clack learned about NamUS, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a Department of Justice repository that tracks missing people and unidentified remains. Clack entered some of Davis' identifying characteristics, and eventually got a match on the remains in Ohio. DNA tests then proved the remains there were Davis'.

Last summer, the family interred the remains at a cemetery near their home outside Kansas City.

Since then, Clack has been calling detectives in Ohio and Jackson County, Mo., and has been frustrated by what she considers a lack of enthusiasm for the case.

"We've been dealing with this for more than a year," Clack said. "I feel they don't want to mess with it because it's an old case."

Vicki Kelly, executive director of the Tommy Foundation, a nonprofit that provides support to families of missing children, said victims' families face several challenges.

"The nightmare doesn't end just because an ID has been made," Kelly said.

Victims' families face stark odds, however. In the U.S., there are about 200,000 homicide cold cases, and about 6,000 murders go unsolved each year, said Mike Huff, co-founder of the International Association of Cold Case Investigators.

Huff advises families to have realistic expectations about the chances of solving a cold case, and said it's important to establish good relationships with investigators.

"It's real easy to get off on a dysfunctional relationship that gets in the way of progress," Huff said.

Authorities in Ohio and Missouri said they have been working on the Davis case, but that it has been hampered by a lack of witnesses and evidence.

"Looking for the person who was responsible for this is the highest priority," said Montgomery County, Ohio, Sgt. Mike Lang. "Because for 20 plus years Paula was Jane Doe to us. ... We would love to know who was responsible for this horrible act."

He said his department has logged hundreds of hours on the case, but so far, nothing has moved the case forward.

"There is no hot lead," he said. "Cold cases can be solved, but we're talking ... a lack of direct physical evidence and a long passage of time."

In Missouri, where Davis lived and was last seen, Jackson County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Rogers said he has referred the case to the FBI, but had not heard whether they were investigating.

"We want to do everything we can to solve this," Rogers said.

The FBI said it could not comment on whether Davis's death was under federal investigation.

Clack, 37, said she will continue to hope for - and seek - assurance that someone is working to find her sister's killer.

"All we want is justice," she said.