On February 10, 2010, a man looking for cans just off Lenwood Road in Barstow, California stumbled on a backpack. For reasons that are unclear, he decided to open it, and found something inside he almost certainly didn’t expect: A severed human head. Police were called, and arrived on the scene just before 3 pm.
Further examination revealed the head belonged to a girl between 14 and 19 years old. Her head had been wrapped in plastic bags, one from Walgreens and another from Fiesta Foods. She’d seemingly had good dental care during her life, which indicated to some people that she might be middle class. Although she was thought to have died just a few days before her head was found, it was unrecognizable. I did read on a forum that this was supposedly due to mutilation of her face, but can’t confirm this. The girl’s cause of death couldn’t be determined, but her case has been investigated as a homicide.
With so little evidence, the case quickly went cold. By September of 2010, investigators said all their leads had dried up, and there didn’t seem to be any new ones. There have been very few updates about the case since then. There was reportedly a recent Facebook post that claimed the case was being worked on by genealogist Barbara Rae-Venter, who famously helped identify the Golden State Killer. However, this post appears to have been deleted.
So who was the Barstow Jane Doe and what happened to her? Because her head was found a few hundred yards from a truck stop, there has been speculation that she was killed by a trucker. Victims of truckers who kill are often dumped in an entirely different state than the one they lived — and died — in. This means that Jane Doe could be from a number of different places in the region. Online sleuths have claimed that Barstow is a pretty heavy traffic area for travelers heading to Las Vegas from southern California. Did someone kill Jane Doe in a crime of opportunity, then dump her body somewhere , planning to be long gone by the time she was found? Most victims killed by truckers are prostitutes — was this true of Jane Doe? Or was she possibly an illegal immigrant, as others have suggested? The latter, possibly even the former, could explain why there was no missing persons report found for her.
And why was Jane Doe’s face so mutilated when her head was found, to the point that it was unrecognizable? Online speculators have theorized that this was either done because the killing was extremely personal, or possibly in an attempt to hide her identity. Others have wondered if the killing was drug related.
The Barstow Jane Doe is a female, between 14 and 19 years old, thought to be Hispanic or possibly white or Native American. She’s thought to have been dead three to four days before her severed head was found in a black backpack; no other remains belonging to her were found. She had straight, dark brown hair, brown eyes and pierced ears.
If you have any information about this case, you can contact the Barstow Police Department at (760) 255-5134. You can also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE LOST (843-5678).