Chapel Hill, N.C. — 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.
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.