The Clay Bust Looked Just Like Her Sister, Missing Since 1978

Inside a cold case in Tampa, Fla.
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 14, 2017 3:16 PM CDT
The Clay Bust Looked Just Like Her Sister, Missing Since 1978
In this Oct. 21, 2016, file photo, Sharon Scott, left, and Sheila Williams console each other near a sculpture of an unidentified 1985 female murder victim during a forensic conference in Tampa, Fla.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

Sheila Williams loves watching the news, and a local segment caught her attention: Florida law enforcement and other officials would soon gather in Tampa for a symposium on cold cases. Maybe, she thought, they'd be able to talk with detectives there about Brenda, her sister who had been missing since 1978. She and sister Sharon—who had spent the intervening years calling detectives and pursuing leads—dug up a faded, photocopied picture of Brenda they hoped to show police. Once there, however, it became clear the event wasn't open to the public, reports the AP. All around them were detectives, forensic scientists, state attorneys—and lifelike sculpted busts, carved to draw attention to 19 cold cases. A bust caught Sheila's eye: an African-American woman with a short afro and big, haunted eyes. It kind of looked like her—and like Brenda.

Sheila gasped and glanced at the photo in her hands. She walked to the clay sculpture and began to sob. A detective stepped forward and ushered the women into a room. He swabbed their cheeks for DNA. Perhaps, detectives said, there would be a match. The woman's body had been found in a patch of scrub brush used as an unauthorized trash dump in 1985 just outside downtown Tampa. About a month later, detectives called. It wasn't Brenda. But months later, in August 2017, detectives called again. "We have some findings," they said. The sisters rushed to the police department. Then, the news: The sisters' DNA was a match with a jawbone—nothing more—found in a Tampa field by a schoolboy in 1986. After 40 years, Brenda Williams had been found. But questions remain. Read the full AP story here.

(Read more cold cases stories.)

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