KALAMAZOO, Mich -- It was a day of closure for the family of Carol Ann Cole, better known to most in the West Michigan area as ‘Bossier Doe.’
The Kalamazoo girl who was missing and unidentified for decades was finally laid to rest amongst family and friends Thursday - a burial 34 years in the making.
“She was just awesome,” said Cole’s sister Jeanie Phelps. “She was a wonderful, sweet, caring person.”
“After 34 years I didn’t want to have to put my sister in the ground. But here she’s at rest. There, she wasn’t resting.”
Cole ran away from home in the early 1980s and was last seen in Shreveport, Louisiana before disappearing. In 1981 the body of an unidentified female was found by a hunter in the woods of Bossier Parish, Louisiana; she died of stab wounds.
The story made national headlines and for three-and-a-half decades, the identity of the body remained a mystery. And that was the case until this February, when the Bossier Sheriff’s Department created a Facebook page in an attempt to identify the girl.
On the page, they posted a composite sketch, recreating what they believe the missing female may have looked like. Cole’s family saw the image, and immediately reached out to the Sheriff’s Department.
One month later, thanks to DNA testing, Cole was positively identified as the girl found in the woods of Bossier Parish, ending the decades long mystery.
Now, the family says, they will pursue the only mystery that remains: who killed Carol Ann?
Law enforcement officials have only one person of interest in the case. John Chesson, the hunter who found Carol Ann’s body in 1981, is suspected of killing the young girl. Chesson is currently serving a life prison sentence for the 1997 murder of his ex-wife’s mother-in-law. She was stabbed, just like Cole.
In 1984, just three years after Carol Ann’s body was discovered, convicted serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to her killing. Lucas never went to trial in the case, and later recanted his statement before his death in 2001.
Even with her sister now laid peacefully to rest, there will be no rest for Phelps. She currently operates The Carol Ann Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to matching the identities of missing young people to unidentified bodies. You can visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CarolAnnProject
“I did have a lot of anger at God,” said Phelps. “But I know it wasn’t God. I think God was waiting for me to find my purpose – to give me the answer I desired.”