On the 29th of October 2006, two men were target-shooting in an oil field in Kilgore, Texas, when they discovered a burning mound.
The heap found on Fritz Swanson Road was the body of a woman between the ages of 17 and 25. She was burned beyond recognition but some of her clothes were still intact. A pair of jeans and a purple jumper were salvaged, and the woman would become known as Lavender Doe.
The autopsy of the woman showed that she had been raped before she was killed the evening before on the 28th of October. Investigators also believed that the fire had been set just a few minutes before her discovery.
Lavender was of average height, between 5 foot 3 and 5 foot 5 inches, with strawberry blonde hair and an excellent set of teeth. Investigators believed her dental records could help identify her, as she still had two baby teeth.
Locals referred to the oil field where Lavender was found as a “killing ground”. Residents questioned also said that there were numerous “suspicious” people in the area that night.
Over the years, Lavender’s face has been reconstructed as a sketch and also in clay. In 2014, her body was exhumed to product a 3D digital image by CT scan by the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
Despite the new interest in the case, the digital image, dental impressions and DNA, no leads were found, and eventually, the case began to go cold.
Felisha’s body was discovered in July 2018 in Longview, Texas. She was last seen with her boyfriend, Joseph Burnette a few days before she went missing.
Joseph Burnette was brought in for questioning and eventually admitted to the murder of Felisha, but he also confessed to the murder of Lavender Doe.
Burnette believed Lavender’s name was Ashley, and he picked her up in the carpark of a Walmart in Longview, where she was working for a door-to-door magazine company, selling to customers leaving the supermarket.
The year before in 2017, Kevin Lord was browsing Websleuths and Reddit when he came across the Lavender Doe threads. The forums already had hundreds of posts about the woman, her clothing and her teeth in great detail. Lord contributed his theory to a Reddit thread, that a missing Texan girl he’d seen on an episode of Investigation Discovery could be Lavender Doe.
He also contacted the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office, where Eddie Hope had already heard the theory of the Texan girl and Lavender Doe, but he appreciated Lord’s efforts.
Lord continued his own investigation and sought out public records and interviewed friends of the missing girl. He began taking a Private Investigator course and found himself looking for an external placement for one of his classes. He chose the DNA Doe Project and recommended Lavender Doe’s case to them.
The DNA Doe Project is a volunteer organisation that includes 60 genetic genealogists who donate their time and experience, trying to find John and Jane Does. They pay for lab costs through crowdsourcing, and in August 2018, they crowdfunded $1,400 for Lavender Doe’s case.
Using GEDmatch, which had recently helped locate the Golden State Killer, they found a woman living in Texas, not far from the discovery of Lavender’s body. The woman appeared to be a first cousin once removed.
The woman wasn’t aware of any missing family members, so the DNA Doe volunteers began to locate cousins of the woman, instead.
They found Robin, who had a police record for arrests relating to alcohol and had eventually died in September 2006, aged 50.
Kevin Lord found that Robin used to live with a man named Johnny Dodd, and his daughter was located on MySpace. She had similar traits to Lavender; perfect teeth and strawberry blonde hair.
The daughter was asked for a DNA sample and the results came back conclusive. The Dodd family were related to her, and Lavender Doe had a name; Dana Lynn Dodd.
Dana Lynn Dodd
Dana was 21 when she was murdered. She was a resident of Jacksonville, Florida when she ran away, and had a difficult upbringing.
She was abandoned by both parents at a young age, and her father was homeless and had been arrested for multiple alcohol-related incidents. Up until she was 14, Dana lived with her stepmother in Arizona.
Dana was eventually sent to live in Florida with her half-sister and her family but in her teenage years, began to take drugs and had minor run-ins with the police.
She eventually ran away in 2000, when she began to work for a travelling magazine company, which sold subscriptions across the country and trapped the predominantly young salespeople with alcohol, drugs and violence. It’s believed she was working when Burnette enticed her into his car and murdered her.
Her family filed a missing person’s report in 2003 but Dana was never located. Three years later, she would be found dead.
In September 2019, around Dana’s birthday, her remaining family and friends gathered in the cemetery where Dana lies. A new headstone replaced the Jane Doe slab that bared her temporary name for 12 years.
Joseph Burnette was due to go to trial this July but he will now stand in front of a jury in August 2021. Burnette is already serving a sentence of 10 years for failing to register as a sex offender.