Investigators have identified Opelika Jane Doe as 6-year-old homicide victim Amore Joveah Wiggins after discovering her remains in 2012.
Opelika Police responded to Brookhaven Trailer Park, located at 1775 Hurst Street in Opelika, Alabama, in January 2012, in response to the discovery of skeletal remains. The majority of the bones were discovered only a few feet into the wood line behind a trailer and the adjacent lot, while a skull was discovered in the yard of a residence. A pink child’s shirt and a small bundle of curly hair were also discovered during the search. The remains were taken to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico for a medical examination.
According to the report, the remains were those of a black female, likely between the ages of 4 and 7, who became affectionately known in the community as Baby Jane Doe. An autopsy was performed, and it was discovered that she had fractures in her skull, arms, legs, shoulders, and ribs, totaling more than 15 individual fractures caused by blunt force trauma.
These injuries all showed signs of healing and occurred prior to her death. Furthermore, the Medical Examiner speculated that Jane Doe may have been malnourished and blind in her left eye due to an eye socket fracture. Jane Doe’s death was ruled a homicide and is thought to have occurred between the summers of 2010 and 2011. Detectives have reviewed over 15,000 case files from the Alabama Department of Public Health and investigated thousands of tips since the discovery of Jane Doe’s remains.
Opelika Jane Doe may have attended Vacation Bible School at Greater Peace Church in 2011, three miles from where her remains were discovered, according to a tip received in 2016. Investigators believe the child in the photos is the unidentified child. Photos from the Bible School have been released. In the hopes that someone will recognize her, an artist rendering of what she might have looked like has also been released. Many leads and tips have been pursued so far, but the identity of Opelika Jane Doe remains a Mystery.
The Opelika Police Department had previously attempted to create a DNA profile for Jane Doe, but were unable to do so due to the condition of the remains. Opelika Jane Doe’s remains were delivered to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas, in January 2022. Othram scientists successfully extracted DNA from the remains and created a detailed genealogical profile. Finally, Othram uploaded the profile to a genealogical database so that genetic relatives could be found. The Opelika Police Department hired Barbara Rae-Venter, a well-known genetic genealogist, biologist, and retired patent attorney who was instrumental in identifying the Golden State Killer. Barbara and her team at Firebird Forensics Group provided investigative leads to the Opelika Police Department.
Jane Doe’s father was identified as 50-year-old Lamar Vickerstaff Jr. in October 2022. Mr. Vickerstaff was born and raised in Opelika, Alabama, before joining the United States Navy. Throughout his Navy career, he lived in Norfolk, Virginia, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Jacksonville, Florida. Opelika Detectives travelled to the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., where Mr. Vickerstaff is currently stationed, in December 2022, to inform him of his daughter’s death.
Mr. Vickerstaff did not provide any information about Jane Doe’s identity during the meeting. After that, detectives met with Mr. Vickerstaff’s wife, Ruth Vickerstaff. Mrs. Vickerstaff, who has been married to Lamar since May of 2006, told detectives she had no idea who Jane Doe’s mother was.
Dr. Rae-Venter identified several possible matches for Jane Doe’s mother, and detectives narrowed the results down to a woman living in Maryland. Detectives met with 37-year-old Sherry Wiggins in December 2022, who confirmed she was Jane Doe’s biological mother. Ms. Wiggins is from Norfolk, Virginia, and she stated that she gave birth to a baby girl named Amore Joveah Wiggins in January 2006. Ms. Wiggins provided documentation demonstrating that Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff obtained legal and physical custody of her daughter in 2009, when her visitation with Amore was suspended.
Ms. Wiggins also provided documentation demonstrating that she has been paying Lamar Vickerstaff child support since 2009. Follow-up DNA testing at Othram, using KinSNP® familial relationship testing, confirmed Sherry Wiggins and Lamar Vickerstaff’s parent-child relationship to the DNA profile developed from the little girl’s remains.
Detectives contacted school boards and pediatric clinics in several states where Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff lived and discovered that Amore was never enrolled in school and was never reported missing. Opelika detectives used this information to meet with the Lee County District Attorney’s Office to determine charges in connection with Amore Wiggins’ death. Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff were arrested in Jacksonville, Florida on January 17, 2023. Ruth was arrested for Failure to Report a Missing Child, while Lamar Vickerstaff was charged with Felony Murder. They are being held at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office while they await extradition to Lee County, Alabama.
This case is still being investigated, and detectives need the public’s help in gathering more information about Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff’s relationship with Amore Wiggins and her time in Opelika, Alabama. If you have any information, please contact the Detective Division of the Opelika Police Department at 334-705-5220 or the Secret Witness Hotline at 334-745-8665.