After 34 years, a Facebook page and a Craigslist ad helped solve the case of a missing teenage girl, linking her to a body found murdered in the Louisiana woods shortly after her disappearance.
Carol Cole, 17, originally of Kalamazoo, Michigan, went missing in October 1980 after running away from a juvenile detention center in Austin, Texas. She went to Shreveport, Louisiana, and was staying with a family, acting as their babysitter, according to a call she made to her grandmother in December 1980.
That was the last time she made contact with her family.
"I told her, 'You're welcome to come home,'" said her mother, Sue Cole, during weekly phone calls they had together. "I still love you."
In January 1981, a female body was found off a logging road a mile and a half into a wooded area outside Shreveport. The young woman had been stabbed to death nine times in the chest and back, and buried under a pile of leaves, reports The Detroit News.
Cole’s grandmother had reported her missing a few weeks before the body was found.
She was one of the people considered to be the murdered woman found in the woods, but the coroner excluded her based on “numerous differences” that were not described, according to police records.
The now-deceased coroner was incorrect, however.
In February, a Facebook page was created by Bossier Parish Lieutenant Shannon Mack for “Bossier Doe.” Facebook does not allow “Jane Doe” pages.
The Facebook page included a digitally-rendered drawing of the murder victim based on her skeletal remains.
Six days later, Bossier Parish 911 dispatcher Linda Erickson was on Craigslist when she came across an ad created by Cole’s sister, Jeanie Phelps, that included a picture of her missing sister as a teenager.
Erickson had previously seen the “Bossier Doe” Facebook page in her department and found the two images looked remarkably similar.
“I can't explain it other than this child was meant to have an identity,” Erickson said, according to The Daily Mail.
DNA confirmed that the body found stabbed to death in the woods was Cole’s.
After 34 years, the missing persons and murder cases were solved.
"It's utterly amazing," Lt. Bill Davis of the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office said. "There's not a whole lot more to say about it."
Another shocking discovery is that a possible murder suspect has also been found.
John Chesson, the man who found the body in 1981 and is currently serving an unrelated life sentence for murder, is the prime suspect.
Frances LeBlanc, Chesson’s daughter, saw Cole’s photo in the news in March, which triggered a memory she had from her childhood. She recalled her father picking up a then-hitchhiking Cole and that she had stayed with the family a month before she went missing.
LeBlanc believes her abusive father murdered Cole.
"This is his history," LeBlanc said. "I had to live with a monster."
Investigators had considered Chesson a suspect because of his subsequent murder conviction. At this time, they are investigating the claim made by LeBlanc but are not seeking to charge Chesson.
Cole’s remains were cremated and brought to her relatives in Michigan. The family plans to have a full funeral and burial once they raise the necessary funds.