Forty-six years after her remains were discovered off Arkwright Road, a woman previously identified by the Macon Telegraph as “Macon Jane Doe” has been identified. Yvonne Pless was 19 years old when she was murdered in Macon by Samuel Little, confirmed by the FBI as the US’s most prolific serial killer. For decades she was missing from her family and remained unidentified until the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office teamed up with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) to solve her case and return her remains home to Macon.
Captain Shermaine Jones of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office and Amy Hutsell, Program Director for CJCC’s Sexual Assault, Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Unit first collaborated in 2018 when the now-deceased serial killer confessed to killing two Macon women. Ms. Pless was Little’s first victim in 1977, and his second, Fredonia Smith, was murdered in Washington Park in 1982. In 2019, Jones and Hutsell traveled to Wise County, Texas where Little was being held to confirm that his confessions matched the unsolved Macon cold cases. The case of the unidentified victim was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified System (NamUs) database as UP2126.
After interviewing Little, Captain Jones closed both cases and the remaining family member of Fredonia Smith was notified. Because the family of Macon Jane Doe was unknown, Jones and Hutsell teamed up again in 2022 and used forensic genetic genealogy to identify her.
In 2022, skeletal remains from the victim were sent to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram developed a suitable DNA extract and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown woman. Othram's in-house genetic genealogy team used the profile to develop investigative leads that were returned back to law enforcement so that they could continue their investigation.
Working with Othram, investigators identified a relative of Ms. Pless, who connected them with her remaining family members. Little confessed to killing 93 women in total. Eight of his victims were Georgia citizens, and a 9th was from Chattanooga, Tennessee, but her remains were left by Little in Dade County, Georgia.
Sheriff David Davis says: “Thanks to the dedication of Captain Shermaine Jones and Director Amy Hutsell, the family members of Yvonne Pless and Fredonia Smith now have closure concerning their missing or victimized loved one. I believe with continued dedication, teamwork, and advancement in technology, we can bring that same closure to other awaiting families.”
CJCC Executive Director Jay Neal concurs and adds: “CJCC is dedicated to providing innovative resources to our criminal justice partners. We were pleased to collaborate with the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office to provide long-awaited answers in these cases. We hope that these answers have brought healing to the families of these victims.”
Amy Hutsell oversees the Georgia Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (GA SAKI) Task Force, and the project was tasked by the FBI’s BAU-4 to assist them in matching Little’s confessions with the nine cold cases associated with Georgia jurisdictions. Planning for the GA SAKI Task Force began in 2017 with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council's receipt of a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI). The Task Force provides consultation and technical assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of cold case sexual assaults that have been reopened as a result of the state's efforts to test previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits. The GA SAKI Task Force and CJCC also use the funding provided by BJA to assist law enforcement agencies statewide in unsolved cases that meet the Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG) criteria.