Thirty Years Later: Juanita Returns Home

The complexity of missing persons cases varies widely.

But no matter how frustrating the investigation becomes, one strategy for detectives, voiced best by Winston Churchill, is essential:

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up!

Three decades of persistence helped investigators with the Hall's County Sheriff's Office (GA) close a missing person/unidentified body case last year:



Her family gave Juanita Adams the Lakota name “Omani Wi” – woman on the longest walk.

Adams’ journey, which started more than 30 years ago, was to end today when her remains are laid to rest beside her mother and other family members on Red Shirt Table.

Adams’ burial will conclude a 30-year quest to identify skeletal remains found along Interstate 985 in Hall County, Ga., on May 22, 1980.

It also ended a family’s search for a missing mother, daughter, sister and cousin.

Adams disappeared in 1978, according to her cousin Roxanne Two Bulls. She left a 3-year-old son behind.

Adams participated in the American Indian Movement’s “Longest Walk” to Washington, D.C., in 1978. She returned home for a few days then left with friends she had met on the walk, Two Bulls said.

“No one ever heard anything from her again,” Two Bulls said.

After the skeletal remains were discovered, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation attempted to identify them.

Forensic examinations by law enforcement agencies and the Smithsonian Institution concluded that the victim was between 17 and 24 years old and of African American or Native American mixed with Caucasian descent.

The victim was likely 19-20 at the time of her death, according to a Hall County news release.

Adams was 20 in 1980, according to her obituary...

One telling feature of the woman’s remains was a prosthetic right eye and indications of old injuries to the right side of her face.

Two Bulls said Adams was injured in a car accident. Surgery to install the prosthetic eye was done at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

According to Two Bulls, Lt. Gerald Couch of the Hall County Sheriff’s office was assigned to the case. He spent years trying to trace the origin of the eye and following leads.

Several skeletal reconstruction composites were created and published.

It wasn’t until Couch asked a forensic artist to enhance scars on the victim’s face that a family member recognized Adams on the GBI website last May...

The family waited 10-months for the University of Texas to perform DNA testing that confirmed Adams’ identity.

According to Hall County authorities, a cause of death could not be determined...
A missing person who has a prosthetic can certainly can aid law enforcement in locating the man or woman in question.

Unfortunately, so many of these unsolved cases contain very little about people that would be considered "unique identifiers."

As such, the Churchill quote on never giving-up is a painful daily reality for family members and investigators searching for those missing.

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You can read more of my Missing Person Monday posts by clicking here.

17 comments:

Miss Caitlin S. said...

Sad there is not a concise cause of the death for the family but excited (for severe lack of a better term) for them that they are able to have some closure.

You are right and kind in stating that- never give up.

Pat Hatt said...

Must be quite the ordeal to go through, can't even imagine. Nice they finally got closer now. Maybe I should get a tattoo or something just in case haha

Miranda Hardy said...

It's nice to see closure in any case.

Carol Kilgore said...

So sad. But I'm happy they have closure. No knowing anything is hugely difficult, no matter the circumstances.

Bonnie said...

Oh, wow. I don't know if I could handle not knowing for that long. I would be a wreck!

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messymimi said...

At the end of it all, at least her family knows, and they are no longer in that limbo.

Rachel Lloyd said...

Awe,30 years..yes NEVER give up!

Bob G. said...

Slamdunk:
Persistence DOES pay off...great investigative work by that sheriff's department!

Stay safe

Kay G. said...

That reconstruction image is very close to what she really looked like in real life.
Her poor family not knowing what happened to her.

BobKat said...

I'm glad the case is closed, but puzzled why her prosthetic eye and scars weren't identified years earlier as being her? I read once where a prosthetic eye have a distinct maker's mark. And if the scars were available on her body, why no cause of death? What about the persons she left with, are they unknown? Still a good many questions to be answered I feel.

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Did you read the article of the woman who stole a baby from the hospital 20+ years ago? Baby is okay and reunited with family but wow!

Clarissa Draper said...

What interesting story! I'm sorry that she was found dead but I'm glad the family had some closure.

Jax said...

I never thought of that before. A prosthetic is a unique way to identify people. Either way, you're right...people should never give up. But that could also risk living a life of pain. At what point do you let go? That's a very rough situation with no right or wrong answer...

Glad to hear of a closure..

presious said...

How relieved this family must be! Unfortunately, cause of death could not be determined. Better it be from an accident rather than harsh circumstances against the victims will. However, the family can now move on to finding closure and focusing on good memories.

Maxi said...

Thirty years is a tremendous amount of time to wait on the demise of a loved one. The family must be so relieved.
Blessings - Maxi

Hilary said...

Thirty years is a long time to wait for closure. My heart aches for this family.

Lisa said...

That is dedication at its finest. I'm glad the family finally has some closure.