October 22nd, 2011

into the arms of oblivion: virtual altar for Jane Doe #92-1169

for nearly 20 years,for longer than she had been alive and known by her real name, she was Jane Doe #92-1169, the unidentified victim of a still unsolved cold case homicide. her body was found on may 28, 1992 in a remote desert area "commonly used to dump trash" outside of phoenix . a man riding his ATV saw a hand sticking out from under a plank of plywood and notified the police. her cause of death was ruled homicide by strangulation. sketches were made,a picture of her clothing was circulated, and she was buried in a potter's field. there were no matches to known missing persons in NCIC and no one comes forward to give her back her identity. seeing as most people are murdered by someone they know, being unable to identify Jane Doe #92-1169 and unable to ascertain her last whereabouts severely hampers the investigation into her death.

through two decades, jane doe becomes an Identikit sketch, sometimes modified, probably inaccurate, occasionally revived by local papers. occasionally we are thus reminded that a girl can be so lost in the world that nobody notices her to be missing and that not many particularly care that she was brutally murdered , tossed in a dump with a bunch of other random stuff nobody wanted cluttering up their lives.

"When Shannon Aumock was 10 years old, a psychologist asked her during an interview what she would want on her tombstone if she were to die because of her continued behavior of running away and constant run-ins with the law.
Aumock, who was classified as a “throwaway” child and had lived in numerous foster and group homes, told the psychologist she would want her tombstone to be blank because she said no one cared for her when she was alive, so why would anyone care when she was dead?" -'Medical examiners' dream: Identifying all victims' by Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune

and so 10 year old Jane Doe #92-1169 succinctly and prophetically summed up her destiny- her unmourned , lonely, and heartbreakingly anonymous death after her bereft, anonymous and broken life.

the love, attention, and care shannon aumock deserved in life is now at last being shown to her in death as her remains were positively identified in February of 2011 . now that it can't make a bit of fucking difference to her. now that it can't save her from death at the hands of a predator. now that it can only make us feel somewhat less shame over the tragedy of her short life.

how careful we are with a dead body, a mere skeleton, placed in a new casket in its very own grave under its very own personalized tombstone. more careful than we were with a fragile, troubled, living and breathing young girl who needed someone to care as much while she was still alive.

shannon was born to an young girl who was the victim of a sexual assault. at the age of three her mother gave her up to Child Protective Services as she was unable to care for her. adopted soon after by a family, at age 12 she was dropped back off at CPS like a mismatched chair or sofa that clashed with the new carpet. the family found her behavioral issues too much to deal with. shannon spent the next 4 years until her murder in and out of group homes and foster care. between 1989 and 1991 she was entered into NCIC an astounding 40 times as a runaway/missing juvenile. the last time she ran away-exact date unknown- she was not reported missing and was not entered into NCIC, ending up dead under a sheet of plywood in the desert. runaway problem solved. behavioral issues resolved.

if upon her last disappearance she had been entered in NCIC there is a possibility she could have been identified in 1992. this would have given the police far more to work with-homicides unsolved after 48 hours usually remain unsolved. a child killer could have been caught and most importantly stopped. instead shannon remained in oblivion, unknown and not missed. her killer also remained unknown, uncaught and, most likely, has gotten away with murder. brandy myers, a young girl similar in appearance and age to shannon was abducted in phoenix one day before shannon's- then jane doe's- remains were discovered. brandy is still missing. it is unknown if the two cases are connected.

jane doe #92-1169's particulars was entered into all the relevant databases like NCIC by the mid-2000's, including a DNA profile for CODIS. in 2010, detective stuart somershoe focused on providing her with an identity. that a girl possibly as young as 13 was not reported missing as required by law indicated jane was probably a CPS or juvie throwaway. these children leave long, predictable police document trails and jane doe was no different. by slogging through mountains of paper work, cross referencing problematic, potentially gone missing CPS cases with relevant unidentified remains, somershoe and his fellow investigators were able to give shannon aumock back her name. DNA from her birth mother confirmed her identity 19 years after her murder.

it is only because of guilt that we care now after having cared less that a girl's sad life of loss and rejection left her especially vulnerable to one of the most dehumanizing of deaths. our society makes much of the sanctity of marriage and the proper raising of children, yet the structures we have in place to ostensibly ' save' those without families to care for them churn out legions of the damaged and dispossessed. their understandably maladjusted behaviors annoy us. their crimes disturb us. their victimization doesn't much concern us. they can end up slaughtered, tossed in a trash heap and it takes 20 years for someone to care enough to name them. unlike shannon aumock, most children are killed not by strangers but by their own parents. what happened to shannon is deeply disturbing- that parents quite often do much the same to their own flesh and blood should disturb us even more. when people in such frighteningly large numbers violently abuse, assault and kill their own offspring, why should we be surprised that strangers can so casually and cruelly destroy the children of others?

Shannon Aumock 1976-1992

information in this post comes from: '1992 slaying victim identified, exhumed from Tempe cemetery' by Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune, March 22, 2011 and 'CASE STUDY: THE IDENTIFICATION OF A 1992 JANE DOE, 19 YEARS LATER' By Det. Stuart Somershoe, Phoenix Police Department, FORENSIC SERVICES UNIT NEWSLETTER Volume 2, Issue 2: March/April 2011-UNT Health Science Center.