38-Year-Old Cold Case Solved in 52 Days

Baby “Delta Dawn” now has a name.

Josie Klakström

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When witnesses saw a mother and young child walking in the early hours of the 3rd of December 1982, they were concerned. The young woman was in a state of distress and walking barefoot along the Mississippi State Highway 63, with a toddler who wasn’t wearing a coat, despite the cold night.

She refused help from passers-by and as her journey continued, she was the topic of discussion over the truck driver’s radios that morning. What the drivers didn’t know, was that the little girl being carried would soon be found dead in the river.

Two days later, a truck driver reported to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office that he’d seen a woman’s body floating in the Escatawpa River. The woman had been wearing the same blue jeans and blue shirt as the mother was seen wearing days earlier.

Officers immediately went down to the site and began looking for the woman’s body, but they didn’t find her. Instead, they found the toddler. Baby “Delta Dawn”, as she was named by police, had been smothered before being thrown into the river from the eastbound Interstate 10 bridge. Her mother was nowhere to be seen.

Detectives quickly began looking into Delta Dawn’s death, but their investigation soon came to a standstill. Although countless witnesses saw the pair together, no one had spoken to the mother long enough to get a name.

The Escatawpa River was searched with the help of boats, helicopters and volunteers, but the mother’s body wasn’t found. Instead, they found the skeletal remains of a man. He was between 18 and 22 and had been shot to death. He was believed to have been in the river for at least six months, and his identity still remains unknown.

The little girl had strawberry blonde, curly hair and was described as being “markedly beautiful”. She was wearing a white and pink checked dress and although she was found with no food in her stomach, she had been cared for while she was alive.

Delta Dawn’s funeral was funded by police deputy Virgil Moore, local businesses and the funeral home, and she was given a Christian funeral. She was buried in the Jackson County Cemetery after a service at the Bethel Assembly Church in Pascagoula and four officers acted as pallbearers for her tiny casket.

The search continued for Delta Dawn’s mother and a media appeal was printed in newspapers…

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Josie Klakström

Josie is a freelance journo who writes about writing, true crime, culture and marketing. www.truecrimeedition.com