November 10, 1979
Caledonia, New York
The body of an unidentified female is found in a cornfield; her identity will remain unsolved for nearly 40 years
The body, later referred to as Caledonia Jane Doe or simply Cali, was discovered by two men tending to their cornfield. She was initially estimated to be 20 years old, though her age was later narrowed to 16 years of age. Cali was fully clothed and was wearing a red sports jacket with black stripes down the sleeves and the words “Auto Sports Products, Inc.” emblazoned on the collar. The jacket is believed to have belonged to her killer. Pollen samples on her clothing suggested Cali had previously, and recently, been in Florida, Southern California, or the American Southwest. She had been shot in the head above her right eye, dragged into the cornfield, then shot once in the back.
Cali’s body was fingerprinted, with the prints being placed in the FBI’s database. No results were found. Additionally, Cali had severe dental issues, including two badly eroded teeth, indicating she had had no recent dental work. As such, there would have been no dental records to compare to her body.
In the early days of investigation, authorities received over 3,000 leads, with numbers swelling to “tens of thousands” over the upcoming decades, though none of the leads proved fruitful. Cali was buried in Dansville, New York, with a headstone reading “Lest We Forget / Unidentified Girl.”
In the 1980s, self-professed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing Cali, providing authorities with the details of her final days. According to Lucas, he picked Cali up in a park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and drove with her until they reached Caledonia, New York some 335 miles (540 km) away. Lucas confessed to shooting Cali after he tired of listening to her talk, took her body from his car, and hid it in a cornfield. His story was questioned when it was revealed he had been employed by a roofing company in Florida at the time of Cali’s murder, though Lucas claimed his employer of forging his time cards.
Lucas later recanted the confession of Cali’s murder, as well as the murders of nearly 600 other victims — including the unidentified woman known then simply as Orange Socks who was identified in 2019 as Debra Jackson. After his recantation, Lucas told the Dallas Times Herald the confessions were part of a hoax meant to prove that “law enforcement doesn’t do its job.”
Decades later, a woman looking for a school friend discovered she had been missing since the late 1970s. Tammy Jo Alexander had, her family presumed, run away from her Brookesville, Florida home and had not been heard from since. While they filed a missing persons report, they received no news and assumed Alexander had been living her life independently without attempting to contact her family. Alexander’s friend could not find any missing persons’ information regarding her case and contributed what she was able to find to the Department of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). Soon, a moderator on Websleuths saw the missing persons record for Tammy Jo Alexander, contacted authorities, and a comparison between Cali and Alexander was first made.
In 2015, a sample of Cali’s DNA was compared to that of Alexander’s half-sister. The samples matched. Alexander, who was 16 at the time of her death, was re-buried with a new headstone bearing her name.
It has been suspected Alexander accepted a ride from someone she met at the truck stop in which she worked, which had been owned by her mother and stepfather, eventually making her way to New York approximately 1,220 miles (1,963 km) north.
Alexander’s stomach contained a ham dinner with corn which was traced to a diner in Lima, New York approximately 15 miles (24 km) southeast of where her body was found. A waitress was questioned and, remarkably, remembered seeing the teen accompanied by an unidentified man, described as a white male approximately 5’8” to 5’9” (173-175 cm) tall with black, wire-rimmed glasses. DNA was also found on the jacket Alexander was found in, which had come from a male source. Three potential suspects in the case were tested against the DNA profile from the jacket, but none matched.
As of November 2020, Alexander’s murder remains unsolved. The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved. Any tips should be directed to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department at 1-844-LCSO-TIP (1-844-527-6847).
“Tammy Jo Alexander.” FBI. Accessed: November 10, 2020. https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/tammy-jo-alexander
Rudd, Nikki. “Inside the Evidence: Who killed Tammy Jo Alexander?” WHEC. May 10, 2019. Accessed: November 10, 2020. https://www.whec.com/news/inside-the-evidence-who-killed-tammy-jo-alexander/5348050/?cat=565&_gl=1kqzcgw_ga*YW1wLWJ4c3htbWFVS0oyd1ItM3RLX280UFBuSGNKdEk1QUo3bnlfU29tZk1jQXVWaTRLaTFJZVcxUzNHb2dYRngxTGo
Rudd, Nikki. “Inside the Evidence: Tammy Jo Alexander’s message from beyond the grave.” WHEC. May 10, 2019. Accessed: November 10, 2020. https://www.whec.com/news/inside-the-evidence-tammy-jo-alexanders-message-from-beyond-the-grave/5348337/
Craig, Gary. “Teen found slain in 1979 was never forgotten.” USA Today. February 1, 2015. Accessed: November 10, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/02/01/tammy-jo-alexander-slain-teen/22696237/
Daneman, Matthew; Craig, Gary; and Yee, Tine. “Police ID Teenager Found Dead 35 Years Ago In Cornfield.” USA Today. January 27, 2015. Accessed: November 10, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/27/police-id-teenager-found-dead-35-years-ago-in-cornfield/22405887/
O’Brien, John. “Officials sure he shot girl in Livingston.” Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester, New York]. April 15, 1985
Redmond, Jim. “Unidentified body found in Caledonia to be temporarily interred: coroner.” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. December 29, 1979
Redmond,Jim. “Cornfield victim may be a runaway.” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. November 14, 1979