Friends knew her as Mercedes.
On June 10, 1991, Mercedes went to visit her ex-boyfriend, James McAlphin, in room 121 of the Whitehall Motel in El Dorado, Arkansas. This particular motel was known for illegal drug activity and prostitution. Witnesses claim that Mercedes and James had an argument that turned in to a physical altercation in the motel parking lot. The dispute spilled into room 121. Despite the fight in progress, a neighbor went to McAlphin’s residence to retrieve some borrowed cassette tapes. Mercedes turned to look at him and pleaded, “You need to talk to him!” Those are the last words recorded for Mercedes. Shortly after that interaction, McAlphin shot her in the head, killing her instantly.
Mercedes Becomes El Dorado Jane Doe
On the scene, investigators from the El Dorado, Arkansas Police Department took Mercedes’ belongings into evidence. Although people present at the scene referred to the deceased woman as Mercedes, investigators found an identification and social security card bearing the name Cheryl Ann Wick. Police believed they had discovered her true identity. They found a phone number for Cheryl Ann’s family and made the dreaded phone call. However, Cheryl Ann was alive and well and claimed that she had lost her social security card and never bothered to report it. Law enforcement named her El Dorado Jane Doe.
There are myriad clues that should have made it easy to identify Mercedes. She was extraordinarily tall for a Caucasian female, at 5'10". Her photographs showed an attractive woman with bleach blonde hair, naturally arched eyebrows, a distinctively long nose, and piercing blue eyes. She was estimated to be between ages 18 and 30. According to McAlphin, she was good at applying makeup to appear younger, and her photographs corroborate that. Her morgue photographs showed a very different lady. At the time of her autopsy, her bleach blonde hair was nine inches long and had grown out to its natural light brown, leaning towards strawberry blonde. Her bare skin revealed freckling across the cheeks, nose, and even on her shoulders. It’s the morgue photographs that drew me in; she indeed looks like someone’s baby. And she was.
Her possessions were meager and clearly sentimental. Along with the photographs, she kept menus from various restaurants she visited. She had a family bible, but it wasn’t her family. It was a long list of people with the surname of Stroud. The Strouds were an African-American family from Indiana. The family took her in for a while but didn’t know anything about her life.
She also kept a journal. Her handwriting was messy, but her grammar and spelling were reasonably acceptable. Wherever she grew up, she must have attended school. Her diary also mentions acquaintances named Gail and Tyrone, and that Gail had given Tyrone $100. She also writes that McAlphin was upset with her. “Maybe I’ll sleep in the bed tonight…” she writes, “I hope he’ll talk to me!”
What Mercedes Said
Mercedes first went on the record as a dancer at a strip club out in Little Rock and claimed to be from Florida. She went by several names to include Cheryl Ann Wick, Karen Karr or Car, Sharon Karr, even Shannon Carr. Mercedes told friends that she had given birth while living at a homeless shelter. The baby, she claims, was taken by Child Protective Services. Since she was using a stolen identity, she didn’t know how to reunite with the child. The homeless shelter has since closed down, and the records are unavailable.
Mercedes sometimes claimed to be in the witness protection program and wanted by the FBI for a bank robbery. Other times, she said that her father was in the Mafia. The police couldn’t tie her to any of these stories.
A month before her death, Mercedes left McAlphin and was staying at the home of a fellow stripper. She developed a relationship with another man, or so it is rumored. McAlphin called the house in a jealous rage, threatening to kill her. This tactic scared Mercedes to the point that she told her roommate that he really would kill her. McAlphin then tried to appeal to her sweet side, as abusers often do. He offered to give her a little cash to come to his room at the Whitehall Motel. She agreed and told her roommate that she might spend the money to buy presents for her children.
What James Said
Despite fleeing the scene of the crime, the police apprehended McAlphin who initially confessed to the murder. He received a 15-year prison sentence. McAlphin later recanted and claimed that Mercedes killed herself. In a letter to journalist David Lohr, he boasts that he is the only one who knows Mercedes’ true identity and will reveal it gladly for $5000. Interestingly, McAlphin was 26 when these murders occurred. He states in his letters that Mercedes was 16 when she “was taken.” He goes on to say that she was older than he was when she died, which puts her birth around 1961, and her abduction around 1977, give or take.
He claims that she was best friends with the Fort Worth Three, and almost made them the Fort Worth Four, but her trustworthiness saved her. He says that he had met her mother and her children and that she was on the run for robbing truckers. He has claimed both. He also insists that he was not her pimp and that she committed suicide. He wrote that Mercedes was involved with a pimp named JD, who she was in love with in the past. McAlphin said hat the “Tyrone” mentioned in her diary is the reason she hid her identity. JD was possibly a known and dangerous pimp named Jeffery Davis.
At the end of the first page, he instructs the reader to turn the page over. His first sentence of page two is, “David, I can’t remember what I wrote on the other side…but if you put the money on my books…” Clearly, this man’s memory suffers. The most chilling statement he made was that many other cold cases would be solved when Mercedes was identified. Only time will tell.
James McAlphin, in my estimation, is a liar. Thankfully, we are living in the age of genetic genealogy, so we don’t have to weed his lies from the truth.
There was a massive break in the case in 2019 when law enforcement was finally able to track down Mercedes’ paternal family using a combination of genealogy and DNA matching. Sadly, the family did not recognize her, although they do acknowledge a strong family resemblance. One of the matches was a female first cousin. In short, this first cousin match would share grandparents with El Dorado Jane Doe. Those grandparents were a couple named Mamie Carter and Daniel Wood of Virginia. Mr. And Mrs. Wood had nine children between 1916 and 1936. They could exclude the 1st cousin’s father since the two women didn’t share enough DNA to be half-sisters or closer. The family has chosen to call her Memory until they can reclaim her actual name. Since the family has recently requested privacy on social media, I will not be printing any living family member’s name here or elsewhere. That is their story to tell.
Three-year-old Christina Lynn Carter went missing in September of 1973. Her mother, Janet Calhoun-Carter, was found murdered in the Appalachian mountains on October 7, 1973, after going missing with her daughter a month prior. During that month, Janet divorced her husband, and allegedly had an affair with a married man. Her daughter, Christina, remains missing.
Christina is a strong match for a few reasons. When a person chooses an alias, they often select one that sounds like their actual name. In this case, we have Mercedes, Cheryl Ann Wick, Kelly Lee Carr, Kelly Karr, Shannon Wiley, Cheryl Kaufman, and Sharon Wiley. All some variation of the “Ch” sound, and most with the last name Car(ter). The surname “Carter” is a name associated with the family that Mercedes’ DNA matched. Mercedes is also a “Car” name, incidentally.
Laurie Blevins is missing with precious little information. Whoever reported her missing does not know her height, her approximate weight, or even her eye color. The only photo provided is a blurry cropped photo of a girl with a baby on her hip. Blevins, like McAlphin indicated, was 16 when she went missing from Portsmouth, Ohio. The name surname Blevins is linked to the Wood family through marriage. The Blevins woman married and divorced her Wood husband, and remarried him later. Is it possible that she divorced him without knowing she was pregnant, and secretly gave the baby away to a family? Hidden pregnancies, and subsequently children, were not uncommon. However, this is just my theory and not a judgment against the Wood or Blevins families.
Anita Qvist bears a striking resemblance to Mercedes. At age 15, Anita was already 5'8" tall and could have grown another two inches to match Mercedes. Anita, born in 1963, has been missing since 1979 but last heard from in 1984. Anita was out of California, and Investigators never mentioned any association to that state. Also, I think DNA would have proven that connection right away since Qvist is a Scandinavian name, uncommon outside of Sweden. Her family is almost entirely Swedish and Finnish on her father’s side, and half Swedish on her mom’s. Barring any paternal surprises, I am almost positive this popular contender is not Mercedes. Though, It is not entirely outside of the realm of possibilities.
It isn’t over
Mercedes, Memory, will be identified. To escape identification in these days of genetic genealogy, you have to descend from no one and have no descendants of your own. Of course, this is not the case. Eventually, the centimorgans will match up, and Memory will have her name back. Mercedes’ genetic family, who self-identified on social media, has been nothing but gracious and forthcoming in their efforts to recover the identity of their loved one. I believe wholeheartedly that her life would have been much different if they had known about Mercedes existence from the start.
What do you think? Who is El Dorado Jane Doe? If you have any information about the identity of El Dorado Jane Doe, please contact the El Dorado Police Department.
Quote by Boris Pasternak: “Lara walked along the tracks …. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/155447-lara-walked-along-the-tracks-following-a-path-worn-by