Last Modified: Monday, August 12, 2013 10:36 AM
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) — A woman buried in Hancock County in 1998 remains unidentified, but county Coroner Jim Faulk believes he can change that if a judge agrees to sign an order to exhume her body.
Faulk asked Circuit Judge Lisa Dodson on Friday for an order to disinter the remains of the young woman, the Sun Herald reported.
The woman was hit by a car and killed on Interstate 10 on May 8, 1998.
Dodson delayed the hearing for a week, saying state law requires “sufficient cause” for an order to disturb remains.
Faulk believes the body is either Nelda Louis Hardwick or Faye Aline Self, both reported missing from Louisiana.
Faulk says he will seek for testimony from the state medical examiner and from Louisiana investigators searching for two missing women.
He also hopes to contact relatives of the two missing Louisiana women, whose descriptions resemble those of the woman hit 15 years ago. Both women left behind children.
Faulk said sonar equipment in Diamondhead is available to make sure the correct body is exhumed, and a human identification lab in Texas can compile a DNA profile of the remains at no cost to the county.
Hardwick was 34 when she disappeared from her home in Lake Charles, La., on Oct. 14, 1993. She had put her children to bed, and her boyfriend went to bed as well. He told authorities that when he woke the next morning, he found a note saying she was running to a store and would be right back.
Faye Aline Self of Armistead, La., was 26 when she disappeared March 30, 1983, She left her baby with her mother and was last seen at the Wagon Wheel Bar & Restaurant with another woman and two men. Self told friends at the bar she was going to get her daughter because she had to be at work early the next day. She never reached her mother’s house. Her car was found in the bar parking lot.
Serial Killer Robert Charles Browne, once a maintenance man at Self’s apartment in Red River Parish, later claimed to have killed Self and two other women from that region, as well as 47 other people around the nation from 1970 to 1995. He claimed he dumped her body in a river, but it was never found.
The unidentified woman was about the same height, weight and age range as Hardwick and Self. The unknown woman had no teeth, and Hardwick had worn dentures.
No one came forward to claim the body. She received a pauper’s burial in what is now St. Joseph’s Cemetery.
Most identifying evidence washed away in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Faulk said. But DNA samples are on file of Hardwick and Self, and samples from the remains could identify the body.
Faulk believes it’s more likely to be Hardwick. He said he enlarged an autopsy picture and a picture of Hardwick, and the facial lines and bone structure appear to be identical.
Faulk said he became interested in exhuming the body after being contacted by missing-persons groups.
“If it had been 15 years and my daughter hadn’t been found or identified, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night,” he said.