Today, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Ware County Sheriff’s Office and the Dougherty Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office announced that Ware County Jane Doe has been positively identified as 5-year-old Kenyatta Odom after a tipster recognized a facial reconstruction created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Additionally, on Nov. 10, 2023, investigators arrested Kenyatta’s mother, Evelyn Odom, a.k.a. Zmecca Luciana, age 56, and her former boyfriend, Ulyster Sanders, age 61, both of Albany, Georgia. They were indicted and charged with Felony Murder, Cruelty to Children in the First Degree, Aggravated Battery-Family Violence, Concealing the Death of Another Person and Conspiracy to Conceal the Death of Another.
While the investigation continues, the little girl who was nameless for more than 35 years now has her name back.
“This is a case that has touched so many of us at the National Center for Missing for Missing & Exploited Children,” said Angeline Hartmann, director of communications at NCMEC. “The heinous details are almost too much to bear, and we have always hoped for answers. We know that navigating these challenging cases is no easy feat. Countless investigators worked relentlessly over the last 35 years, and we’re honored to support all the agencies involved who helped solve this case.”
This heart-wrenching story began on Dec. 21, 1988, just days before Christmas. According to police, a truck driver discovered skeletal remains in a box off Dunkin Bridge Road in Waycross, Georgia. The remains were found wrapped inside a brown blanket and concealed inside a duffle bag that was placed inside a TV console cabinet. Several other items were recovered at the scene, one being an Albany Herald newspaper.
Forensic analysis determined that the child was African American, a female and approximately three to four years old. The Ware County Sheriff’s Office and the GBI investigated, dedicating a substantial amount of time and resources to the case. The little girl’s death was ruled a homicide, but her identification and who was responsible for her death remained a mystery.
Then, in 2009, authorities reached out to NCMEC for assistance. Over the years, NCMEC, along with its long-standing partners, conducted several analytical searches and DNA testing in an attempt to locate potential matches to missing children. In 2012, NCMEC’s Team Adam was deployed to Georgia and met with investigators for a case review. Team Adam provided technical assistance to the GBI, coordinating efforts to get a new facial reconstruction completed.
NCMEC completed a facial reconstruction of the little girl using a CT scan of the child’s skull and digitally recreated images of the pajamas the child was found wearing. These images were used to create a NCMEC poster and feature the case on “Help ID Me,” NCMEC’s Facebook page dedicated to sharing information about unidentified children.
In January of 2023, the GBI said they received a tip from a member of the public claiming to have seen the NCMEC facial reconstruction. The tipster told police they believed the young girl was Kenyatta Odom. An extensive investigation was launched, and the family of Kenyatta was located. DNA testing was done with the help of family members, which led to the positive identification of Ware County Jane Doe as 5-year-old Kenyatta Odom.
Colin McNally, forensic imaging supervisor at NCMEC, is the artist who created Ware County Jane Doe’s image that led to her identity. “It is an overwhelming feeling when one of our images assists in the identification of a child,” said McNally. “These images are designed to capture the attention of an individual who may recognize the person, and they have proven instrumental in solving cases.”
NCMEC is currently assisting law enforcement with more than 650 cases of unidentified remains of children. To learn more about our unidentified cases, visit NCMEC’s “Help ID Me” page. You may be able to help give a child back their name: https://www.facebook.com/HelpIDMe/.