The following story--about a Jane Doe case in Santa Ana, CA--is haunting me. I hope you will not find this maudlin, but when something hits you this hard when you aren't directly connected, I think it warrants expanding on why that is. Above is the face of a young girl who was found on a middle-class residential street corner in Santa Ana, CA on Jan. 19. Her body was taken to the UCI Medical Center in Orange, where she was pronounced dead from head injuries. Police say there was no evidence of sexual assault and details of the autopsy have not been released. Yesterday the police did release this photo to the media; it was taken by the L.A. police when she was picked up for loitering at some earlier time, but she gave a false name.
Now seven weeks have passed and the police don’t seem to be any closer to finding out who she is than they were on the day her body was found. I followed the case casually until I saw her photo yesterday. Now she is indelibly printed on my heart. In a big city like this, you read about kids dying all the time and I protect myself from feeling too much pain. It is bad news out of my control. Since I've seen the photo, however, though I don’t know her, I feel like she is somehow part of me.
I have raised children and I have teenage grandchildren. I work in a school. We keep track of our children so closely; they are so incredibly precious to us. If someone was missing more than a few hours in my family or school, we would be frantically searching for her. And yet, no one has reported her missin--and no one has come forward to identify her.
The Los Angeles Times ran her photo yesterday and it has been on all the local TV stations.
The reporters point out that the girl's photograph looks like it was snapped for a high school yearbook--blue eyes, a heart-shaped face, and wavy auburn hair that sweeps her shoulders. She’s probably 16 or younger. She reminds me a lot of a half dozen teenage girls I know extremely well—exotic and just coming into womanhood, yet innocently looking up to see what life will bring—and hoping for the best.
I suppose she is from out of state--maybe a runaway. Maybe she was like the Haight-Asbury kids of the '60s who congregated in San Francisco from all over the country. All I know is I can’t get her out of my mind. I have named her Victoria and I picture her being born and being the beloved child of a mother and father--who maybe died leaving an innocent to fend for herself? Or maybe there was a divorce, a foster home? Or maybe Victoria was head-strong and simply couldn't be parented during adolescence. One of my own three now adult kids was like that. Maybe she’s been roaming the streets in New York City or Boston or Detroit and decided to come to California where it was more comfortable living on the street? Or maybe she came into the country illegally through Canada or Mexico? I could speculate forever and with an active imagination like mine, that's not productive. I just feel so badly.
Someone bludgeoned her to death--in a part of the city this wouldn’t ordinarily happen. The murderer(s) are running like hell or sure staying underground hoping she’ll be like other Jane Does the police investigate decades later as cold cases.
Bad things happen all the time to all kinds of people, including children and teenagers, but for some reason, this girl’s death has hit me in the center of my soul. There but for the grace of God goes my own child, my own grandchild, a friend or neighbor’s child. Has she been reported missing? Isn't some school wondering where their pretty sophomore student went?
I care, sweet child; I pray for your soul. I pray that those who ended your life face justice. Your pain, your death, affects us all. I care--and in my caring, all of a sudden I am unprotected and caring for all the children who are abused and killed day in and day out. It is rare that I allow myself to feel this deeply about a stranger--and it hurts.