365 Days of Texas True Crime: Girl Unknown
I read the newspaper everyday, but not the one that comes out daily about what's going on right now. I read newspaper archives. I sift through stories of missing people, murders, bombings, and unsolved deaths.
I came across a story with not much information to go along with it a few years ago that seemed so perplexing and sad that I made some notes on it and never forgot about it.
The story was about an attractive young women who was found face down in the Roper Motel Pool. They figured she was about 19 years old. In the paper the authorities were asking for help finding the male companion she was with at the motel. The motel manager reported that the young woman and and an unidentified man had checked into the motel about 2 p.m. There were witnesses that had reported hearing screams from the pool area. They ran to see what the trouble was to find the woman floating in the pool.
The woman was taken to the Reeves County Memorial Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival. The young man she was with asked the motel manager for his registration card back so that he could use it as identification at the hospital. The last anyone saw of him was when he drove away from the motel in a late model sedan. He had gathered any and all belongings from the room they were staying in and left.
The pathologist performing the autopsy on the young woman reported a bruise on her temple. In an effort to help with her identification a description was released to the news media. The woman was a "very attractive" brunette with brown eyes; between 18-20 years of age; 5 foot, 4 1/2 - inches tall; 120 pounds with an olive complexion and a four inch burn scar on her right rib cage and a three inch scar on her left leg. She was wearing a bright red swimsuit. There was one other thing found on the girls body; written, likely by a ballpoint pen were two words on the sole of her right foot, "Joe" and "LEAN".
An Odessa couple came just days after the woman's death the try and determine if it was thier missing teenage daughter who had been missing since December but dental records would prove it was not.
Final rites were set to be performed July 20th, 1966, and unless someone came forward to identify the pretty young brunette she would he buried in an unmarked grave in Fairview Cemetery.
Sandy Moore, the 16 year old granddaughter of the motel manager happened to be one of the witnesses who heard the woman screaming and ran to her aide. She and a companion pulled the woman they found floating in the pool out to attemp artificial respiration on her.
Hundreds of people came to view images of the woman in an effort to identify her but her grave was marked "girl unknown, July 4, 1966".
Six years later a man from Warsaw Indiana, Sam Blocher, renewed the search for her identity when he saw a television program regarding the sixth anniversary of the drowning of a pretty dark-haired woman in a Pecos motel swimming pool. He thought the description sounded alot like one of his two sisters he was separated from when his family had lived in Midland. Nothing ever came from this or any of the other leads in the case and the pretty young brunette was all but forgotten.
Sandy Moore, the motel managers granddaughter, never forgot what she saw that day on July 5th, 1966. The slender woman with long dark hair, full lips and olive skin with a slim blonde haired man with a crew cut sitting in the chairs by the pool. The man, she remembered, was drinking a beer and the woman a soda. Sandy was was spending the summer at her grandparents motel waiting tables at the cafe, cleaning rooms and working at the registration desk.
The name that authorities had retrieved from the motels registry was not released to the public at the time. That name we now know was Mr. and Mrs. Russell Battuon. About three hours after the Battuons checked into the motel a maid ran into the front office where Sandy was and managed to lead her to the pool where she could see that there was a woman facedown at the bottom of the pool on the deep end. After struggling to get the woman out a few times a motel guest jumped in to help. Another motel employee rushed to the room of the woman's husband, Russell, to find him taking a nap. After discovering that she had already been taken to the hospital he stopped by the front desk to ask for thier registration card, siting that he would need it for identification purposes at the hospital. Russell got into his car and drove away, but not to the hospital. He was no where to be found and the only thing left in the room was a woman's top, bra and a pair of shorts.
It was an email from a Hotmail account registered to the Netherlands to a man named Todd Matthew's in 2014 that renewed the search for the girl who became known as "Pecos Jane". Matthew's was responsible for creating a website called "Doe Network" , a national clearinghouse for missing and unidentified persons. That site would end up being the partial inspiration for NAMUS, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and Matthew's would end up being asked to become the sites director of communications and outreach.
As a result of the email from "Jacy J", regarding a woman who's case didn't appear to be listed on the website (Pecos Jane) and the determination and heart of Pecos police chief Lisa Tarango, and a laundry list of countless other individuals who contributed time, effort, research ect...a DNA match to Pecos Jane was made. Trust me when I say countless others, I'm talking COUNTLESS others and who knows how many hours of researching and reading ect...
The search led them to the doorstep if Joyce Hemmy in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was one of fifteen siblings born to Richard and Elverda Hemmy who all lived on a farm in Kansas. A large catholic family who worked the farm together, raising stock animals and growing vegetables in the garden. The spent weekends picnicking at a lake close by, even though most of the kids couldn't swim. That must have just been a thing back in the day because my grama can't swim either.
Joyce Hemmy was found through forensic Genealogy. The officer who knocked on her door was acting in behalf of the Pecos police department and wanted to know if she happened to have a missing person in her family. She did.
Her sister, Jolaine Hemmy.
Jolaine and her sisters were close and as they grew older and struck out on their own they found themselves living together in Kansas City. Jolaine was splitting her time between living with her older sisters Joyce and Carolyn, working at Drive-in's. Jolaine met an older man while working that her sister Joyce recalls not liking, even though she'd met him only a handful of times. He wasn't nice to her, was controlling and Joyce told her sister she could do better. According to the information gathered from texasmonthly.com, Joyce recounts what happened the last time she saw her sister. It was on a Friday, July 1st in 1966, Jolaine came to Joyce's house after work. She asked her sister to go to a movie with her and her boyfriend and another girl but Joyce couldn't go. She already made plans with her own boyfriend to go fishing that day. It was the last time the sisters she was living with would ever see Jolaine again.
Of course they tried to file a missing persons report but as police were notorious for, they told the sisters she had probably run off with her boyfriend and would eventually find her way home.
Joyce did in fact receive a postcard from Jolaine that seemed to affirm the assumption that she was off somewhere with her older boyfriend. The postcard was stamped from Las Vegas on July 3rd. It was a picture of the swimming pool at the Flamingo Hotel. (Foreboding to say the least)
Written on the back-
Well, I got lost. See you in a couple weeks, maybe.
The thing was Joyce knew her sisters handwriting and this didn't look like hers at all. Not to mention she didn't go by "Jo", as the letter was signed. A similar letter was sent to their mother that all agreed was also not from Jolaine. That letter was torn up by Elverda, the mother.
It was just 4 days from the time she went missing from her home in Kansas City to the time she would he found dead at the bottom of a Pecos Texas motel. She was 17. It's also interesting to note that according to all her living siblings, Jolaine couldn't swim. At the time of the incident the man with Jolaine at the motel had said that she told him she was going to the pool for a swim while he took a nap in the room. If she couldn't swim she wouldn't have told her companion she was going for a swim would she?
Jolaines mother and father never forgot about her. They both thought about her often and wondered about what could have happened to their pretty dark haired daughter.
In January the remaining family members gathered in person and by zoom to hear the story of what happened to their long lost sister.
The only part of the story left untold now is that of the identity of the man that Jolaine was with, the man her family believes murdered her.
When Sandy Moore pulled Jolaines body out of the pool she remembers there was broken glass nearby. She remembers the abrasion on the side of her head. Considering she couldn't swim perhaps the man had hit her with the beer bottle he was previously seen drinking out of, pushed her in the pool and left her to down. Then ran back to the room to gather up thier things so he could make a quick exit but before he could bolt a motel employee knocked on the door. So what does he do? Pretends to have been napping and acts oblivious to the situation. He remembers all the information the hotel would have on him when he filled out the registration card so he loads up the car and stops by the front desk to peddle a lie to a naive 15 year old (it was the day before her 16th birthday) about needing the card back.
Or it could've simply been an accident. She could've drown and he panicked being that she was only 17 and he was likely in his twenties. He hadn't known her all that long to begin with and based on Joyce's recollection of his mean demeanor he could've just been a selfish, uncaring a-hole that didn't want to have to deal with the reprocutions of Jolaines death on his watch.
A case of murder would be very hard to prosecute at this point being that Russell Battuon would be in his 80’s by now if he's still alive and there wasn't much evidence of anything other than an accidental drowning.
For now what matters is that Jolaine Hemmy has her name back and her family finally knows what happened to her. They plan to travel to Pecos to retrieve her ashes after she can receive a new death certificate ect...you know how red tape and government paperwork work goes. The family is so grateful for how well the small town of Pecos Texas treated a young girl that no one even knew. Raising money to pay for her a proper funeral and headstone. Visiting her grave and leaving flowers ect...and just the fact that the whole town young and old have always thought of thier Pecos Jane as one of thier own.