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After 41 years, Texas authorities identify murdered Jane Doe as Stillwater girl

The State of Minnesota removed her from her home when she was 13 due to "habitual truancy" and she never returned.

Authorities in Walker County, Texas, have identified the body of a 14-year-old girl they've called "Walker County Jane Doe" for 41 years as a missing girl from Stillwater, Minnesota.

The Walker County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday identified the girl in the decades-old case as Sherri Ann Jarvis, who was born on March 9, 1966. 

However, they are still searching for her killer. 

The body of a girl was found along Interstate 45 in Huntsville, Texas, about 70 miles north of Houston, on Nov. 1, 1980. She had been raped and strangled, but authorities were unable to identify her — she was buried in Walker County with a grave marker that read "unknown white female," KXXV reports.

It wasn't until recently that investigators were able to identify her as Sherri thanks to forensic genetic genealogy which investigators used to build her family tree and identify six of her family members, authorities said at a news conference Tuesday.

“I'm just real pleased with all the work that's been done and investigation technology that's advanced to the point where we're able to identify this young girl,” Walker County District Attorney Will Durham said Tuesday, according to Item Online. “From a prosecutor's perspective, I just hope that this information will lead us to whoever did this."

Sherri's family said in a statement that she was 13 when the State of Minnesota removed her from her family's home due to "habitual truancy" and she never returned, despite promising she would in a letter she sent her family shortly after her departure.

Officials said she ended up running away from the agency that had custody of her in 1980, when she was 14. It's unclear how she ended up in Texas after being in the State of Minnesota's custody, with officials saying the records from Minnesota have been purged.

Authorities said Sherri had arrived in Huntsville, Texas, alone on Oct. 31, 1980. A few people saw her and talked to her that day, remembering she said she was from the Rockport-Aransas Pass area, and asked how to get to the Ellis Unit, a prison about 15 miles away. 

She never made it there. The next day, a truck driver saw her body lying in a grassy area on the shoulder of the interstate, reports state.

No one at the prison unit was familiar with Sherri, nor were there any missing persons reports. People in the Rockport-Aransas Pass area also were not familiar with her, authorities said. 

Sherri's parents died without knowing what happened to their daughter, but she has one sister who is alive, according to a statement from her family

"Sherri Ann Jarvis was a daughter, sister, cousin and granddaughter. She loved children, animals and horseback riding," the statement said, adding: "She was deprived of so many life experiences as a result of this tragedy."

The statement says her family lived in "bewilderment" every day since she went missing, noting they'd hired a private investigator in an attempt to locate her but had no luck. 

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Sherri's family thanked investigators who worked to provide "long-awaited, albeit painful answers to our questions on her whereabouts," adding: "We take a measure of comfort in knowing that she has been identified and where she is located so we may pay our respects at her final resting place."

The family says they will continue to support those who are seeking who killed her "because she did not deserve the death she received and justice served to those who would commit such a heinous act would be fitting tribute to Sherri."

"We love and miss Sherri very much. You are with mom and dad now, Sherri, may you rest in peace," the statement said. 

The family also thanked those who donated to put a headstone at Sherri's grave and those who visited her burial site over the past 40 years. 

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