More than three decades after the body of a little girl was found discarded in the woods in rural Georgia, a tip from a citizen led law enforcement to her accused killer – her mother.
State investigators were called to an illegal trash dump in Ware County, Georgia, just a few days before Christmas in 1988 after the discovery of a case covered in concrete, according to a Nov. 13 news release and news conference from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
They found the body of a female child inside a TV cabinet, GBI Special Agent Jason Seacrist said in the news conference. The body was wrapped in a blanket inside a duffel bag that was inside a trunk encased in concrete.
She became known as Ware Baby Jane Doe, and her death was ruled a homicide, investigators said at the news conference.
The location is about 170 miles south of Macon near the Florida line.
The child had been submerged in hot water, according to an indictment obtained by WJXT, which disfigured the bottom half of her body, ultimately leading to her death.
She had died a few months before her body was found and was wearing a sweater with the image of a pink pony, investigators told the outlet.
Near the trunk was a copy of The Albany Herald newspaper, Seacrist said, and investigators began searching through records from Albany and then across the state and country for missing children.
They repeatedly tried to compare the forensic evidence found at the dump site with evidence from other missing children, checking cases in Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and other states to no avail.
Without her identity, the case went cold.
Then, in 2019, state investigators began working with genomic sequencing groups to create a genetic profile for the girl, according to the release.
Three more years went by before they identified family members of the child living in Albany, but they were still unable to identify who may have killed her.
In December 2022, a news release and news story on the 34th anniversary of Ware Baby Jane Doe’s discovery prompted an anonymous donor to offer a $5,000 reward for any information on the child, Seacrist said.
A woman, who was not identified, saw the news and called investigators with a story she had been told about a child she used to know, Seacrist said in the news conference.
“She believed she may know who this little girl may be,” Seacrist said. “She knew that there had been a child that had gone missing, and that her mother said the child had gone to live with her father. This person never really believed that story.”
Investigators followed the lead and it pointed them towards an identity.
In June 2023, the GBI confirmed the child in the trunk was 5-year-old Kenyatta “KeKe” Odom of Albany, Seacrist said.
The investigation finally took off, and just a few months later, investigators had identified Kenyatta’s mother, 56-year-old Evelyn Odom, and her mother’s live-in boyfriend at the time of her death, 61-year-old Ulyster Sanders Sr., as suspects in the case.
On Nov. 1, Odom and Sanders were indicted on charges of felony murder, cruelty to children in the first degree, aggravated battery as family violence, concealing the death of another person and conspiracy to conceal the death of another person, according to the release.
Both Odom and Sanders were taken into custody on Nov. 9, Seacrist said.
“Finally, after almost 35 years, not only were we able to identify her remains of who Baby Jane Doe was, but we were also able to make the arrest of those we believe were responsible,” Seacrist said.
Albany is about 180 miles south of Atlanta.