A Virginia woman’s search for her biological parents came to a dark conclusion this week when she discovered her mother was a murder victim who had remained unidentified for 40 years.
Christine Marie Salley begun looking for her mother and father in 2018, even hiring a private investigator to try and track them down.
A break in the search finally came this month when the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office contacted her to tell her that her DNA — submitted by the investigator to GEDMatch in December — matched a Jane Doe killed in 1980 in Southern California.
The sheriff’s office was then able to identify their Jane Doe as Pamela Dianne Duffey, who was listed as Salley’s biological mother on her adoption paperwork. She was 21-years-old when she was murdered.
In November 1980, an archaeologist discovered the remains of a male and a female in a shallow grave in the Mojave Desert. Both of the bodies were naked and carried no identification, hampering efforts to identify them.
The San Bernardino coroner determined the pair had died as a result of gunshot wounds and blunt force trauma.
Salley told investigators that during the search for her parents, she had learned that her mother had known a man known by the nickname “Digger Lane” and that the two had planned to meet up when he was released from Virginia prison in 1979 or 1980.
Authorities then found records of a former inmate named William Everette Lane, and DNA tests of Lane’s biological mother in Florida confirmed he was the other Mojave victims. He was 20 years old.
In yet another twist, a year before Salley started her search, a man named Howard Neal, now 68, confessed to murdering the as yet unidentified couple in an interrogation.
Neal, who lived in nearby Ludlow, said the pair had been hitchhiking, and he had picked them up.
Neal tried to sleep with Duffey, according to the San Bernardino sheriff, prompting Lane to argue with him.
Neal then shot Lane before raping and murdering Duffey — and disposing of both of their bodies in the desert, investigators said.
Neal said he remembered that the woman had a daughter but that she ditched the child to travel the country. He said the man looked like “a hippie.”
Neal is currently serving a triple life sentence for murder in Mississippi after being convicted of murdering his brother, his 13-year-old niece, and his niece’s 12-year-old friend in 1982.
He had been sentenced to death, but tests later indicated he was borderline mentally disabled, and he was resentenced to life.