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Sheriff IDs Mississippi woman found in 1977 as victim of serial killer

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Posted at 12:28 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 15:30:16-04

Authorities say a woman's skeletal remains were identified 44 years after her murder.

According to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, the woman long known to investigators as "Escatawpa Jane Doe," has been identified as Clara Birdlong.

Birdlong was found in 1977 at a Mississippi construction site and investigators believe she was a victim of the most prolific killer in U.S. history, the late Samuel Little.

The department said hunters found Birdlong's remains near a highway in Jackson County on Dec. 27, 1977. She was a short Black woman with a distinctive front gold tooth and probably wore a wig.

Officials say she was discovered about three or four months after she was killed.

Authorities said throughout the years, "several facial reconstructions and computer composites were created in an effort to help identify her."

A breakthrough came in January 2021 when authorities in Mississippi contracted a Texas DNA research facility to create a family tree based off Birdlong's DNA. They then traced it to a cousin in Mississippi, who connected them to her 93-year-old grandmother.

The grandmother told investigators that her cousin was born around 1933 and went missing from Leflore County sometime in the 1970’s.

"Another distant cousin in Texas said Clara went by the nickname “Nuttin,” and described her as a small woman who had a gold front tooth and wore a wig," the sheriff's department said. "The cousin also recalled Clara disappeared in the 1970’s."

In August, a woman in LeFlore County who remembered Birdlong told investigators that the victim the county in the 70’s with a Black man "who claimed to be passing through Mississippi on his way to Florida."

Birdlong was never seen or heard from again, investigators said.

In September, investigators confirmed that Birdlong's DNA matched that of the grandmother.

The sheriff's department considers Little to be the prime suspect.

Her cause of death is undetermined.