The Anonymity of Death
by Robert A. Waters
The Overseas Highway runs 113 miles from Key Largo to Key West. The mostly two-lane road crosses dozens of small islands with exotic names such as Hawks Key, Duck Key, Big Pine Key, Sugarloaf Key, and Lower Matecumbe Key. Almost all the islands have stops for tourists complete with tacky trinket shops, cafes and bars, museums, boat ramps, etc. Anything to squeeze a buck from visitors.
While many tourists bring a certain naïve awe to the beauty of the Keys, a dark undercurrent of drugs, theft, and even murder runs through the local culture.
On February 14, 1991, a young girl stepped out onto the Overseas Highway. Heading north from Key West, she held her thumb out. Whether she was island-hopping or headed home to some northern state, no one knows. In fact, she’s never been identified. Florida Jane Doe is the unofficial name given to her by police.
She was seen by many people as she attempted to catch a ride. She stood out from other hitchers because of her clothing. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported that she wore a “knitted, long-sleeved sweater with wide red, black and purple horizontal stripes; long knee length denim shorts; and black ankle-high Indian-moccasin booties with red stitching.” The colorful sweater caught the eye of many witnesses—it was unusual attire for this part of Florida.
The next-to-last sighting of the girl was at Mile Marker 17, near Big Coppitt Key, at about 6:30 in the evening. The last sighting was the next day. By that time, Florida Jane Doe was dead.
She was nude, in a wooded area near an illegal dump site. The FDLE website reads: “Windsurfers camping in the area near Bahia Honda State Recreation area, located near mile marker 35 on US 1 in the Florida Keys, made the gruesome discovery of a young dead girl. Her body was laying on a dirt trail in a heavily wooded area.”
This indicates that she was likely picked up and transported eighteen miles. It’s logical to assume that someone who knew the area gave her a ride, took her to the secluded spot, and murdered her.
An autopsy revealed that Florida Jane Doe had been beaten, strangled to death with her own bikini top, and likely raped. Her clothing was found nearby, and included “a blue and red-striped Forenza sweater; Big Yank blue denim shorts; and black Clicks' moccasin-style booties with red stitching, Click brand, size 6 1/2B, sold by Baker Shoes in 1989.” She also wore a watch with a silver band and cheap earrings.
Investigators were unable to identify the dead girl, so in 1993, they created a computer model of what she may have looked like. Initially, the coroner guessed the girl’s age to have been between 15 and 20. Now the age range has been expanded to between 16 and 25.
Florida Jane Doe was five feet, four inches tall and weighed about 145 pounds. Her hair was dark, and worn just above her collar. She had brown eyes. She was neat, and had good dental care. According to law enforcement, “the victim may have carried a baby to full-term. She was suffering from ovarian and fallopian tube cysts, which may have been causing her abdominal pain.”
Two tattoos could help relatives identify the girl. One was the word “Love” encircled with a heart on her upper left arm. The other was located between the thumb and forefinger of her left hand: it was a tiny cross with sun rays emanating from the center.
A lonely girl on a wind-swept highway with miles and miles of road ahead. Her colorful and unusual clothing drew attention from travelers as she trudged along with her thumb out. Someone noticed and stopped. She hopped into a car or truck and became one more anonymous victim.
If you remember a girl who looked similar to the photo above, please call Monroe County Sheriff's Department at 305-289-2410.