NC Wanted

Highway clean-up crew discovers mystery murder victim

Posted October 20, 2013

— On Sept. 19, 1990, inmates clearing debris along Interstate 40 made a chilling discovery – a woman, dead nude and decomposing was found amid the litter along Interstate 40 in Chapel Hill, near the New Hope Church Road exit.

Pathologists estimate the woman was between 18 and 22 years old, about 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed about 110 pounds. She was wearing a pink sweatshirt with three white bunnies on the front, a bra and white socks.

"The rate of decomposition was starting to advance. You could not tell from her face what she looked like," said Investigator Greg Strowd of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

A medical examiner concluded the woman was likely strangled.  

Strowd said investigators had a single tip.

"A citizen or another agency said a person matching that description was seen at a truck stop in Burlington. That's the only time I can say that we might have had a possible identification or a possible sighting," he said.

A composite was drafted to help investigators visualize what she may have looked like.

Woman found in Orange Co. remains a mystery Woman found in Orange Co. remains a mystery

Authorities referred the case of the nameless woman, whom they nicknamed "Hope," to The Doe Network, an organization that works with investigators around the nation to identify nameless victims.

Daphne Hurgronje, of The Doe Network, noted the contrast between the woman's life and death.

"She didn't have on any shoes or undergarments or pants but she still had on socks, and they were clean on the bottom. They were like brand new, white socks," Hurgronje said. "So she took care of herself, and basically somebody just treated her like a piece of trash." 

Authorities ruled the death of "Hope" a homicide, but they have yet to make an arrest.

"For whatever reason, the dots just haven't been connected," Hurgronje said.

Anyone with information about the woman found along I-40 is asked to call NC Wanted at 1-866-439-2683.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • mramorak Oct 22, 2013

    Im so grateful to be here and able to read all of your posts,The way this world is !you never know when your life is over.Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.

  • simplelogic Oct 22, 2013

    If she was murdered by a trucker and dumped by the highway, unfortunately she could be from just about anywhere. So sad.

  • grandmadof8 Oct 22, 2013

    To all those who ask why is it news now? If you had a loved one who had disappeared wouldn't you want it to stay in the news in hopes of finding them?

  • Dan Cooper Oct 21, 2013

    I read up on this story a few years ago, the only possible suspect is in prison in Virginia for 1 or 2 murders he committed while as a trucker in NC & VA around the same time. He was suspected of other killings in the two states but didn't confess to any additional murders. So it's still an open murder investigation but it still could be more about identifying her.

  • Half Red Half Blue Oct 21, 2013

    "I am so confused...why is this in the news now?"

    So we won't forget and the victim can rest in peace once this case is resolved.

  • just my2cents Oct 21, 2013

    They are bringing new attention to cold cases, especially those that have bodies that are unidentified. SURELY somebody would miss this person!

  • my2cents-justsaying Oct 21, 2013

    Who cares if its "new" news?!?! It deserves public attention, so its news now.

  • durham_nc Oct 21, 2013

    I'm confused to. It says they found her in 1990, but no other updates as to why this is in the news in 2013.

  • halfpint1552 Oct 21, 2013

    I am so confused...why is this in the news now?

  • shortcake53 Oct 21, 2013

    I hope she is identified, so sad to pass away and nobody even knows who she is. I also hope they find who killed her.