Identity of “Mississippi Delta Dawn” AKA “Baby Jane Doe” Confirmed

The name of a female toddler discovered along the banks of the Escatawpa River in Moss Point, MS in 1982 has been found using forensic genetic genealogy.

On December 3rd, 1982, multiple witnesses reported a young adult female dressed in a blue plaid shirt and jeans walking west along I-40, close to the Alabama-Mississippi border. The woman, who appeared to be under extreme distress, was carrying a female toddler. Two days later, at approximately 7:00 am, a passing motorist reported the body of a woman wearing a blue plaid shirt floating in the Escatawpa river. Attempts to search for the woman’s body were unsuccessful; however, the body of a female toddler was found in the tall grasses on the riverbank. Autopsy results showed that the child had drowned in the river, and that there had been an attempt to smother her beforehand. Efforts to identify the toddler, referred to in the media as ‘Delta Dawn’ or ‘Baby Jane’, were unsuccessful, and the case went cold.

In March 2020, lead Forensic Genealogists Anthony Lukas Redgrave and Lee Bingham Redgrave received the unidentified child’s autosomal DNA profile from Othram, Inc., a forensic genomics lab.  Utilizing both GEDMatch and Family Tree DNA databases, Redgrave Research Forensic Services’ genealogy team was able to develop parental candidates for ‘Delta Dawn’ in just under eight weeks.  The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office then contacted the parental candidates’ families for a DNA sample and further questioning, confirming the identity of the child as 18-month old Alisha Ann Heinrich of Missouri.  

Gwendolyn Clemons, mother of Alisha Heinrich, has not been located

Alisha was born on May 24th, 1981 to Gwendolyn Mae Clemons, who was recently divorced  at the time of their disappearance. Alisha and Gwendolyn were reported missing from Kansas City, Missouri on November 24th, 1982.  Investigators learned that the Clemons’ were able to travel with a male friend with the intent of starting a new life in Florida, and though that friend, now deceased, had returned to Missouri without the two. He is currently a person of interest. Investigators have reason to believe that the eyewitness reports of the woman and child seen on the 3rd and 5th of December 1982 are Gwendolyn and Alisha.

If you have any information relating to the whereabouts of Alisha Ann Heinrich and Gwendolyn Mae Clemons’ from their November 24th, 1982 disappearance to Alisha’s December 5th, 1982 discovery, or information pertaining to Gwendolyn’s current whereabouts, please contact the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at (228) 769-3024.

We want to say how proud we are of how hard the genealogy team worked to help reach this resolution. It was a small team and we worked long hours, and worked from the heart. Our love and condolences to the family of Alisha.

Senior Genealogy Intern Olivia McCarter visits Alisha’s grave in October 2020

Thank you to intern Bryan Worters for assisting in this writeup.

Media coverage:

WLOX news coverage
‘Delta Dawn’ infant identified: Mystery of child found in river in 1982 solved; mother still missing (AL.com)
Alisha on Unidentified Wiki
Gwendolyn on Unidentified Wiki

The genealogy team who assisted on this case consisted of the following:

  • Anthony Lukas Redgrave
  • Lee Bingham Redgrave
  • Olivia McCarter
  • Jessica Veltstra
  • Bryan Worters
  • Elizabeth Marshall
  • Tanner Preston Sousley