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Between 1984 and 1991, the bodies of four women were found along a boggy, 25-acre stretch of land known as the “Killing Fields” in Texas, but for decades the identities of two of the women would remain a mystery.
That portion of the mystery has now been solved after investigators were able to use advanced DNA analysis to confirm the identity of two women who for years were known simply as Jane Doe and Janet Doe. The women were identified as Audrey Lee Cook and Donna Prudhomme.
“These girls deserve their names, they deserve their faces back,” author Kathryn Casey, who wrote the true crime book “Deliver Us” about the murders, told KTRK.
League City Police Chief Gary D. Ratliff said he hoped the discovery would “help bring closure to the victims and their families,” during a news conference to announce the new leads in the case, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Now that the identities of all four victims have been determined, investigators hope the new information may help them catch the person responsible for the grisly killings, which have been referred to as “The Calder Road Murders.”
The first body was discovered in April 1984 after Heidi Frye’s family dog brought her skeletal remains back to her home in League City, Texas, Ratliff said at the news conference, according to ABC News. Investigators were later able to find the rest of her body in some woods not far from her home. The 25-year-old had been reported missing on Oct. 10, 1983.
The bodies of two more victims would be discovered on Feb. 2, 1986 in the same field.
One of the victims was Laura Miller, who disappeared from a corner store 17 months before her body was discovered.
Miller’s dad, Tim Miller, would go to start the organization Texas EquuSearch after the discovery to help other grieving families find their missing loved ones.
“Laura was found right there and no grass has ever grown in that spot. No grass has every grown where Laura’s body was found,” Miller said, according to KTRK.
The field would haunt Tim Miller, who frequently revisited the spot over the years hoping to gain clues about what happened to his missing daughter.
“I would come out here at 2 a.m. I would come out here at noon. I don’t think there’s an hour or a minute in the day at some time or another that I wasn’t here. I wanted to see who was coming in and out. I was obsessed with this place,” he said.
The same day his daughter’s body was discovered, investigators would find a second body nearby. The victim was given the name “Jane Doe,” but just this week investigators have identified her as Audrey Lee Cook, who was believed to be about 30 years old when she died.
She was born on Nov. 25, 1955 in Memphis, Tennessee but moved to Texas later in life, living in Houston and Channelview between 1976 and 1985.
She made the move to the Houston area to begin “a new life” with her girlfriend, according to League City Police Lt. Michael Bluffington.
During her time in Texas, she worked various jobs including as a mechanic for a golf cart company in 1979. She also worked for Harris Equipment company, Balloon Affair and at some point as a mechanic for National-Rent-A-Car.
Those who knew Cook at the time also said she may have been using and selling cocaine before her disappearance in 1985. After her family stopped receiving letters and communication from her, they traveled to Houston but were unable to find any clues to her whereabouts.
The fourth victim would be found in 1991 by two people riding horses. That body would be given the name “Janet Doe” until investigators announced this week there were able to identify her Donna Prudhomme, who died when she was approximately 34 years old.
Prudhomme, who was born in Port Arthur, lived in the Beaumont area from 1982 to 1985 before moving to Austin in 1986. Investigators said Prudhomme moved again to Seabrook in 1988 and was last known to be living in Nassau Bay in 1991 before she disappeared.
One of her moves had been to escape an abusive relationship, Bluffington said, and she had also arranged for her two sons to live with their grandparents before she died.
While investigators did not have any known employment history for Prudhomme, they said she was a “frequent patron” at area bars. She was last seen in July 1991.
Investigators believe she likely died six weeks to six months before her body was found and said an injury to her upper spine could be linked to her death.
Her only surviving son believed that she had “just moved on,” investigators said of her disappearance.
They were able to identify the two unknown victims with the help of Parabon NanoLabs, who were able to create family trees for both victims through genetic genealogy.
Investigators are now asking for anyone with information about either woman to contact authorities.
"At this time, we really just want to focus on these girls, who they were, the people that knew them and that’s kind of where we wanna steer this today,” Bluffington said at the news conference.
Tim Miller is hopeful the latest break in the case may finally give his family some answers about what happened to their teen daughter all those years ago in the Killing Fields.
"I'm certainly hopeful this breaking news on who they are will move the investigation forward. That way we can go ahead and get the person that's responsible," he told the local station.
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