COLD CASE: Murder victim found in 2003 finally identified; sheriff seeking killer
By Geoff Belcher
Jan 23, 2014, 17:09
Mary Asenath Woodin, whose skeletal remains were found in Hancock County in 2003, has finally be identified.
Hancock County Sheriff's Office investigators have identified the victim in an 11-year-old murder mystery, but are seeking the public's help to find the culprit.
On May 10, 2003, sheriff's deputies responded to a scene off of Hwy. 607, just north of Stennis Space Center in the Buffer Zone where the skeletal remains of an unidentified woman were found.
An anthropologist with Louisiana State University's "Faces Laboratory" created a facial reconstruction of the victim and investigators entered a photo of the sculpture into the Doe Network – an online database of missing and unidentified people – but the trail went cold after that.
Fast forward to 2011 – Dan Sullivan, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, called the sheriff's office and advised he had been in contact with Arthur Jones, the brother of Mary Asenath Wooden, who had been missing for 11 years, Sheriff Ricky Adam said in a press release issued Thursday.
"Jones advised Sullivan he (had) reviewed the reconstructed composite submitted earlier by the HCSO and was certain it depicted his missing sister," Adam said.
With the assistance of the Polk County, Fla., Sheriff's Office, Hancock detectives obtained a DNA sample from Jones to compare with the remains, Adam said, but the results were inconclusive.
HCSO investigators then went in search of other members of Woodin's family, Adam said, finally tracking down the missing woman's son, Thomas Woodin, a former U.S. Army soldier. Again, with the help of Florida investigators, the HCSO got a DNA sample to compare with the remains and, again, the results were inconclusive.
"However," Adam said, "the DNA analysis showed shared genetic traits between Thomas Woodin and the remains," which meant the woman could have been Thomas Woodin's mother, "but more was needed."
Last September, investigators tracked down Asenath Jones of Winter Haven, Fla., Adam said, Mary Woodin's mother.
Her DNA conclusively matched with the sample taken from the remains, thereby scientifically identifying the deceased as Mary Asenath Woodin.
"With Mary Woodin's remains identified, half of this cold case murder mystery is solved," Adam said. "Unfortunately, the other half ... is the identification and subsequent prosecution of the person or persons responsible for the murder of Mary Woodin."
The sheriff's office is seeking the public's help to track down the killer or killers.
If anyone has any information concerning the investigation, Adam said, please call the sheriff's office at 228-466-6910 or Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898.
"Your assistance would facilitate the Woodin Family in this tragedy, bringing full closure to their ordeal," Adam said.