Opelika PD Leverages Othram's Genetic Testing Platform to Identify Opelika Jane Doe

After first finding her remains in 2012, investigators have now identified Opelika Jane Doe as 6-year-old homicide victim Amore Joveah Wiggins.

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Published January 19 by Michael Vogen
Media Inquiries


In January 2012, Opelika Police responded to Brookhaven Trailer Park, located at 1775 Hurst Street in Opelika, Alabama, in reference to skeletal remains being found. A skull was located in the yard of a residence while the majority of the bones were located only a few feet into the wood line behind a trailer and the adjacent lot. During the search of the area, a pink child’s shirt and a small bundle of curly hair were also recovered. The remains were sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, where a medical examination was performed. The report stated that the remains were of a black female likely between 4-7 years of age who became affectionately known to the community as Baby Jane Doe. An autopsy was performed and notated fractures to her skull, arms, legs, shoulders, and ribs; totaling more than 15 individual fractures that were attributed to blunt force trauma. These injuries all had evidence of healing and occurred sometime prior to her death. In addition, the Medical Examiner suggested that Jane Doe may have been malnourished and blind in her left eye due to a fracture in her eye socket. Jane Doe’s death was determined to be a homicide and believed to have occurred between the summer of 2010 to 2011. Since the discovery of Jane Doe’s remains detectives have reviewed over 15,000 case files from the Alabama Department of Public Health and investigated thousands of tips.

In 2016 Investigators received a tip that Opelika Jane Doe may have attended Vacation Bible School at Greater Peace Church in 2011, three miles from where her remains were found. Photos from the Bible School have been released and Investigators believe the child in the photographs is the unidentified child. An artist rendering of what she potentially looked like has also been released in hopes someone may recognize her. So far, many leads and tips have been pursued but the identity of Opelika Jane Doe remained a mystery.

The Opelika Police Department had previously attempted to develop a DNA profile for Jane Doe however, they were unsuccessful due to the condition of the remains. In January 2022, Opelika Jane Doe's remains were sent to Othram's laboratory in the The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from the remains and built a comprehensive genealogical profile. Finally, Othram uploaded the profile to a genealogical database to enable a search for genetic relatives. For the genetic genealogy research, Opelika Police Department retained Barbara Rae-Venter, famed genetic genealogist, biologist, and retired patent attorney, known for helping police investigators identify the Golden State Killer. Barbara and her team, Firebird Forensics Group, produced investigative leads which were returned to Opelika Police Department.

In October 2022, Jane Doe’s father was identified as 50-year-old Lamar Vickerstaff Jr. Mr. Vickerstaff was born and raised in Opelika, Ala. before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. During his lengthy Navy career, he resided in Norfolk, Va., Honolulu, Hawaii and Jacksonville, Fla. In December of 2022, Opelika Detectives traveled to the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla. where Mr. Vickerstaff is currently stationed, to notify him of his daughter’s death. During the meeting Mr. Vickerstaff did not provide investigators with any information on the identity of Jane Doe. Detectives then met with Mr. Vickerstaff’s wife, Ruth Vickerstaff. Mrs. Vickerstaff, who has been married to Lamar since May of 2006, advised detectives she did not know his daughter or who may be the mother of Jane Doe.

Dr. Rae-Venter was able to determine several possible matches for Jane Doe's mother and detectives were able to narrow the results down to a woman residing in Maryland. In December of 2022, Detectives met with 37-year-old Sherry Wiggins who confirmed she was the biological mother of Jane Doe. Ms. Wiggins is a native of Norfolk, Va. and stated she gave birth to a baby girl named Amore Joveah Wiggins in January of 2006. Ms. Wiggins provided documentation showing that Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff obtained legal and physical custody of her daughter in 2009, at which time her visitation with Amore was suspended. Ms. Wiggins also provided documents indicating that she has continuously paid child support to Lamar Vickerstaff since 2009. Follow up DNA testing at Othram, using KinSNP® familial relationship testing, supported the parent-child relationship of both Sherry Wiggins and Lamar Vickerstaff to the DNA profile that Othram developed from the remains of the little girl.

Detectives reached out to the school boards and pediatric clinics in several states where Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff resided and determined that Amore was never enrolled in school nor was, she reported as a missing person. With this information, Opelika detectives met with the Lee County District Attorney’s Office to determine charges related to the death of Amore Wiggins. On January 17, 2023, Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff were arrested in Jacksonville, Florida. Lamar Vickerstaff was charged with Felony Murder and Ruth was arrested for Failure to Report a Missing Child. They are currently being held at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office pending extradition to Lee County, Alabama.

This case remains under investigation, and detectives need the public’s assistance in gathering additional details regarding Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff’s relationship with Amore Wiggins and her time spent in Opelika, Alabama. If you have any information, please contact the Opelika Police Department Detective Division at 334-705-5220 or the Secret Witness Hotline at 334-745-8665.

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Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. With dnasolves.com anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.