We Know Who Killed Her. But 24 Years Later, We Still Don’t Know Her Name.

A convicted murderer breaks his silence, claiming to be the only person who can identify the woman known as El Dorado Jane Doe.
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Eldorado Jane Doe's killer claims to be the only person who can identify her.
El Dorado Police/Huffington Post Illustration

Back in the '90s, she was an exotic dancer who had a secret life, perhaps as a prostitute with links to organized crime. Some say she was working on the fringes to send money back home to her two kids.

Still, 24 years after she was shot to death at a seedy Arkansas hotel, it's unclear if those kids ever existed. We don't even know her name.

She was known in the clubs as "Mercedes," and the detective who has doggedly searched for the truth calls her "El Dorado Jane Doe."

It's not a whodunit -- her killer was charged and convicted. It's a case of who is it: Who is Mercedes? The question has confounded authorities and, for the past 12 years, has become an obsession for Detective Lt. Cathy Phillips, a 23-year veteran of the El Dorado Police Department.

"It's frustrating, because I have all this information -- DNA, fingerprints, photographs -- and still can't identify her," Phillips told HuffPost.

Phillips, a mother herself, hopes for a lucky break. She dreams of solving the mystery and retiring. And she thinks of the heartbreak some mother and maybe kids have been enduring all these years.

I want to "give her family some peace and closure," said Phillips. "I go through this case and realize so many people have helped with his investigation -- and we're still not there. But I got faith we will be."

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Mercedes and James "Ice" McAlphin in the early 1990s.
El Dorado Police Department

The story of Mercedes is that of a woman who had a history of prostitution and frayed relationships. James "Ice" McAlphin, her lover and alleged pimp, was convicted of killing her. McAlphin, who is breaking his silence for the first time, claims he's the only person who truly knows who she was.

"The identity is not a mystery to me," McAlphin told HuffPost from inside East Arkansas Regional Unit, a correctional center in Marianna, Arkansas. "But, if you solve this cold case, you'll find that you are also solving a couple more cold cases."

Mercedes' story has all the elements of hackneyed fiction, with the exception that it's all true. And this type of tale is far from fiction. There are about 40,000 cases of human remains in the U.S. that are unidentified, many with stories as fraught and nuanced as that of Jane Doe.

"Missing is worse than dead -- when you know somebody and cannot put their physical remains to rest," Todd Matthews, director of case management and communications for NamUs, a national registry of missing and unidentified people, told The Huffington Post.

"The stories that we find are sometimes more bizarre than I can imagine … Unfortunately, when the public feels like a John or Jane Doe [is a] criminal, they don't get the attention they deserve … it's harder [for people] to think of her as a victim."

In The El Dorado Jane Doe case, Matthews said the questions trail off before leading to answers. "She could've been a runaway, she could've been abducted, she could've honestly just lost her way," he said.

This much is certain: Mercedes knew the man who gunned her down. He served most of a 15-year sentence for killing her and remains in prison on an unrelated conviction. He has claimed at times to know Mercedes' true name, information that would bring closure to what remains of her family.

But McAlphin isn't talking. He suggested in letters to The Huffington Post that he knows the truth, but isn't quite ready to tell it. Instead, he dropped tantalizing hints.

Dismissed by some as an attention-seeker, McAlphin said Mercedes shot herself with his gun -- a story Phillips said ignores the witnesses who saw him hit Mercedes, fire the fatal shot and flee with the weapon.

Phillips said if Mercedes does have children, now grown, or a mother, someone should tell them what happened.

"Not a whole lot of people want to work on this case," Phillips said. "He's already done his time. You're not going to get an arrest or anything out of it. But I just want to know, and I want the family to know who she is. I think that's important."

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Excerpt of a letter from James McAlphin
Isabella Carapella

McAlphin, jailed on a domestic battery charge, said he'll reveal Mercedes' real identity if someone pays him $4,000.

"If you're sincerely interested in this information, go ahead [and put the money] on my books and I'll give you all the information I have and I'll keep working with you in case I can remember more," McAlphin said.

The mystery of Mercedes' true identity began in 1991.

Today, an empty lot surrounded by patches of grass is all that remains of the Whitehall Motel in El Dorado. Before it was torn down, the motel was a haven for drugs and prostitution in what Phillips called "a bad area of town." It was where McAlphin and Mercedes sometimes called home.

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The Whitehall Motel as it appeared on Google Maps in April 2008
Google Maps

The couple's tumultuous relationship, according to friends and police, would often send Mercedes to the emergency room with injuries she claimed McAlphin had inflicted on her. Her visits were so frequent that police officers were concerned.

"They tried to help get her away from him and that environment," Phillips said. "They felt like she had been drug into this situation."

Mercedes also had run-ins with police for prostitution and bad checks. She was often booked under the name Cheryl Ann Wick, a name she sometimes used around El Dorado. Occasionally, she would spell Cheryl with an "S."

In June 1991, Mercedes summoned the courage to leave McAlphin and moved into the apartment of her friend, Andrea Cooksey.

"I met Mercedes at a club and we became friends," Cooksey told HuffPost. "She said that she used to be a stripper and was from out of town. She told me her and her mother didn't get along and that her momma was raising her two kids. I know she had said the one was a girl, but I can't remember what she said the other one was."

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A mug shot of El Dorado Jane Doe following an arrest by police in El Dorado, Arkansas.
El Dorado Police Department

Mercedes was afraid of McAlphin, Cooksey recalled.

"We had been living together about a month when he called Mercedes and told her he was going to kill her," Cooksey said. "She had been seeing another man and he wasn't happy."

According to Cooksey, McAlphin called again one night in July 1991 and promised to give Mercedes money if she'd come to his room at the Whitehall Motel. Mercedes told Cooksey she wanted to use that money to send presents to her children.

Mercedes made the short walk to the motel. It wasn't long before she and McAlphin got into a heated dispute, partially witnessed by Roy Charles Menon, who was staying in a nearby room. He stopped by McAlphin's room to ask for the return of some cassette tapes McAlphin had borrowed, according to a police report.

"Upon his knocking, McAlphin opened the door, at which time [Mercedes] told [Menon], 'You need to talk to him,' suggesting to Menon that she and McAlphin were having some type of problem."

El Dorado Jane Doe
El Dorado Jane Doe(01 of30)
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"From everything I can gather, there are a couple things that are consistent," Detective Cathy Phillips said about Mercedes. "She went with black males, she did prostitute and [she] was an exotic dancer." (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(02 of30)
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An undated photo of Mercedes on a vehicle that once belonged to James McAlphin. (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(03 of30)
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Mercedes and James McAlphin are pictured in this undated photo taken at the Whitehall Motel.

According to Mercedes' friend, Andrea Cooksey, "She just didn’t want to be with him anymore."

Cooksey added, "She broke up with him. He just couldn’t accept it."
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(04 of30)
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"I do remember my grandma saying she was running, but I don't know what she was running from," said Danielle McAlphin, who knew Mercedes (pictured) as "Aunty Cheryl." (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(05 of30)
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According to Detective Cathy Phillips, Mercedes was once considered a person of interest in at least one unsolved bank robbery, but police eventually "ruled her out." (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(06 of30)
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Danielle McAlphin said Mercedes was "real sweet and kindhearted. She didn’t bother anybody she was kind of timid." (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(07 of30)
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Mercedes was arrested a number of times, including in May 1991, just before her death, when police in El Dorado picked her up on a bad check charge. At the time of her arrest, she gave the name Cheryl Ann Wick and said she was from Minneapolis. (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(08 of30)
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According to McAlphin's niece, Danielle McAlphin, he told his family Mercedes' death was an accident.

"He told my mom and my aunt that they were at motel fighting," she said. "He was freakishly big and she was tall, but dainty. He said they were arguing and he pushed her out the door and apparently she fell and broke her neck. He said he thought she was dead, so he shot her to make it look like she killed herself."
(credit:Google Maps)
El Dorado Jane Doe(09 of30)
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After Mercedes' death, police found an identification card in her belongings that identified her as Cheryl Wick from Minneapolis.

"She worked many jobs under my name and she got arrested under my name in places I've never been -- like Dallas," said the real Cheryl Wick. "I had to go to the social security office and say, 'No, I've never worked at that place.' It was a hassle. It's like a case that doesn't go away. I wish I could help, but I can't."
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(10 of30)
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Authorities found two pieces of paper that appeared to be diary entries in Mercedes' possessions.

This entry, dated Aug.19, 1990, reads: "I thought we would leave today but no such luck. Gail came home today. She didn't seem very happy to see us here. Tyrone gave her $100.00 dollars. He can't get that stupid VW to work. So he doesn't no what to do. I just want to get to Texas and get to work. Gail is leaving tomorrow for Fresno, her grandma had a heart attack. Well I'm going to sleep so night, night."

Authorities suspect the diary entry was written while Mercedes was in Louisiana. They have never been able to identify Tyrone or Gail.
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(11 of30)
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This page appears to contain two diary entries.

The first, undated, reads: "Book. Well I'm going to sleep in the bed tonight. I wish he would talk to me. Maybe I'll say something to him tonight. Well good night."

The next entry is dated Aug. 16, 1990. It reads: "Oh thank God: He finally talked to me this morning. I don't believe it. He said he was sorry and didn't mean those things he said to me. I'm so in love with him. I'm glad we are going to work things out. We had a good time this morning. Hee. Hee...Hee..."
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(12 of30)
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Also in Mercedes belongings was a Bible inscribed with a list of family members with the last name Stroud: Willie James Stroud, Sharon Yvette Stroud, Ladonna Elaine Stroud, Johnny Lee Stroud, Viola Elizabeth Ross Stroud, Donna Jean Stroud, Bobbie Joan Stroud and Willie James Dantzler Sr.

According to Detective Cathy Phillips, it has been incorrectly reported that McAlphin is related to the Stroud family. Authorities have been unable to locate the Stroud family members.

"I don’t know where that came from," Phillips said. "We mailed out letters to all of them in Irving, Texas, and they were all sent back. Did she just pick that Bible up because she felt like she needed it?"
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(13 of30)
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Authorities found a business card for a Wylie, Texas, recording studio in Mercedes' possessions.Contacted by HuffPost, the owner, Anthony Boyd, said he does not recognize any of the photos of Mercedes.

"For the life of me I tried to recognize [her], but I just can't place the young lady," he said. "Nothing looked familiar to me at all. I wish I could help."
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(14 of30)
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This T-shirt was found in Mercedes' belongings. Did it hold special meaning to her? (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(15 of30)
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Authorities found several menus with Mercedes' belongings. (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(16 of30)
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A menu that was found with Mercedes' belongings. (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(17 of30)
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A menu that was found with Mercedes' belongings. (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(18 of30)
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A menu that was found with Mercedes' belongings. (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(19 of30)
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A menu that was found with Mercedes' belongings. (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(20 of30)
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A menu that was found with Mercedes' belongings. (credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(21 of30)
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James McAlphin told HuffPost he's not a "monster."

"I did love Mercedes and I always will," he said.
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
Dwayne McCorkendale(22 of30)
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Mercedes was once considered a possible person of interest in the November 1988 shooting death of Dwayne McCorkendale, a 27-year-old truck driver who was killed at a highway rest stop in Chandler, Oklahoma.

James McAlphin mentioned McCorkendale's death in one of his correspondences with HuffPost, in which he hinted that uncovering Mercedes' identity would reveal other unsolved crimes.

"The cold cases I spoke of was not about the truck driver she shot with the shotgun when she was running with Tyrone and it's not about the banks they allegedly hit in Virginia," he said. "Those were only things that she talked about. I was talking about cold cases I have factual information about when she and I were together. Her cold case would unravel the mystery of another cold case."
Missing Trio(23 of30)
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According to James McAlphin, Mercedes was friends with two of three girls who had been abducted from a Fort Worth, Texas, mall in the 1970s.

"These girls were like sisters to Mercedes," he said. "We use to visit them. They grew up in captivity in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, sometimes in the same town where their parents were. By the time they were adults, they were willing members of the stable. The younger girl died giving birth to a child at home."

McAlphin appears to be referencing the Dec. 23, 1974, disappearance of Rachel Arnold Trlica, 17, Lisa Renee Wilson, 14, and Julie Ann Moseley, 9, from Seminary South Shopping Center in south Fort Worth.

There was nothing to corroborate whether he is telling the truth.
El Dorado Jane Doe(24 of30)
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Mercedes' friend, Sloane McCaster, said it "breaks my heart" that she is still unidentified.

"She was a very sweet girl," McCaster said. "She was out of place in that environment."
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
James McAlphin(25 of30)
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According to James McAlphin's niece, Danielle McAlphin, he was raised by his grandparents in Texas.

"My grandma, my grandpa are from El Dorado, but they used to drive truck and moved to Texas," she said. "He's the middle child and was kind of fat when he was young and people used to pick on him." McAlphin's niece added, "He's not really close to anybody. He's been in jail his whole live. I don't think he's been out more than five or six months at a time."
(credit:Arkansas Department Of Corrections)
WARNING(26 of30)
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The next three photos were taken at autopsy. (credit:HuffPost)
El Dorado Jane Doe(27 of30)
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At the time of her death, Mercedes was wearing a white T-shirt, acid washed blue jeans, a black belt, white ankle socks, white tennis shoes, two silver bracelets on her right wrist and a gold ring on her right forefinger.

According to Detective Cathy Phillips, Mercedes tested positive for cocaine in her system.

"She had two injuries -- blunt trauma and the gunshot wound to her head," Phillips said. "The trauma was to her neck, but she died from the gunshot wound. It was to her temple."
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(28 of30)
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Her hair was frosted blonde and about nine inches long. Her eyes were blue, her teeth were natural and she had a scar under her left breast.

"She was 70 inches tall," Detective Cathy Phillips said. "Some reports have her at six feet, but the coroner says she was 70 inches tall, 162 pounds. She had a cut scar over her right eye that was old and she had an old stab wound scar on her left waist."

The coroner also noted Mercedes had three piercings in her right ear and two in her left ear.Phillips said

Mercedes could have been in her 20s or early 30s.

"What threw us off in beginning was she wore a lot of makeup to cover up her freckles and she dyed her hair," Phillips said. "I think her hair was a brown or had a reddish tint. The morgue pictures give you a true look at her."
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(29 of30)
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Authorities found a lot of clothing in Mercedes' belongings after her death.

"I have most of it," said Detective Cathy Phillips. "She had Jordache jeans, Alfred Dunner sweaters, a pair of Essentials jeans and a Victor Costa evening dress. She had several negligees, Peter Ashley ladies shirts, an Open House cooking apron, a pair of Britannia blue jeans, GoodFellows shorts, several bathing suits and several belts."
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
El Dorado Jane Doe(30 of30)
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"We have her makeup," Detective Cathy Phillips said. "That’s how we got her DNA. She has DNA on file, fingerprints on file and dental information. We have all of that and still can't identify her."

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Lt. Cathy Phillips at 870-881-4810. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may provide information by calling El Dorado Crime Stoppers at 1-870-863-4636.
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)

Menon told police that when Mercedes stepped out of the room and into the parking lot, McAlphin rushed past him. He hit Mercedes and said, "Get back in the room, bitch." Then he knocked her down and dragged her back into the room, according to Menon.

Menon returned to his room, where he listened as the argument escalated.

"I heard them going back and forth with each other and then pow -- a gunshot," Menon told HuffPost in a telephone interview. "That was it. I never went back over there. I didn’t open my door or nothing till police got there."

Cooksey, who was walking past the motel, also heard the gunshot.

"I thought, 'Oh no he didn't,' and I ran to the room and found Mercedes laying on the floor," Cooksey said. "She was dead."

Witnesses said they saw McAlphin get into his vehicle and speed off. Police tracked him down and charged him with first-degree murder and second-degree battery.

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An excerpt of a letter from James McAlphin.
Isabella Carapella

McAlphin denied killing Mercedes -- and still does.

"No murder occurred," McAlphin said, though he admitted hitting her. "She grabbed my gun ... [and] said she was going to kill herself. I thought she was fucking around because she had done that before. I told her, 'Do us both a favor,' and I heard a shot so loud that it still rings in my ears 24 years later."

Phillips dismissed McAlphin's story, saying the facts contradict suicide.

"There were witnesses," the detective said. "He hit her and after he shot her. he fled the scene with the gun."

McAlphin told police he wouldn't give them Mercedes' true identity "unless we did something for him," Phillips said. The only thing he would tell detectives was that he had once met Mercedes' mother and sister. He said they lived in Florida, but refused to provide names.

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Fake identification cards that were found with Mercedes' belongings after her death.
El Dorado Police Department

With McAlphin not talking, authorities turned to Mercedes' personal belongings. They found a Social Security card and an identification card for Cheryl Ann Wick. The identification card had a photo of Mercedes. Investigators traced Wick's family to Minneapolis and placed a call to her parents.

"My sister lived at home and she called me up crying," the real Cheryl Wick told HuffPost. "The police told my parents that I had gotten murdered and I was like, 'No, I'm fine.'"

Cheryl Wick said she never met Mercedes and believes Mercedes stole her cards from her purse when Wick was working as a dancer for a Minneapolis company called Party Time.

"At that time, I used to carry a lot of my stuff in my wallet," Wick said. "When you're a dancer on stage, people can have access to your stuff. I never noticed it missing until the police called me. If I knew anything I would help, but unfortunately I don't recognize her."

Investigators went back to Mercedes' belongings for clues. They found menus from restaurants in Texas and Virginia; diary entries in which she refers to "Tyrone" and "Gail"; and a Bible inscribed with family members with the last name Stroud. Detectives followed up on all.

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Who is Eldorado Jane Doe?
Isabella Carapella

They didn't even know her age, guessing from the autopsy that she was between 20 and 30. She was 5 feet 10 inches, 162 pounds, and had old scars over her right eye and on her left waist that suggested an intimacy with violence.

El Dorado police found friends and law enforcement agencies that knew Mercedes by names other than Wick, including Cheryl Kaufman, Shannon Wiley, Sharon Wiley, Kelly Lee Carr and Kelly Karr. McAlphin told HuffPost she also used the name Helen Stenner and once told him she was from Oklahoma.

Sloane McCaster, a member of Websleuths, an Internet forum of armchair detectives who look into unsolved crimes, met Mercedes at a club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

"This would have been around 1989 or 1990," McCaster told HuffPost. "I kind of bonded with her. She was very sweet, but timid and scared to death of her boyfriend. I felt like he had something on her to keep him under his thumb. I remember her saying she had been in Dallas for quite a while, but beyond that I don't remember a lot about her."

McCaster added: "She's actually the reason I started to get involved in unsolved cases."

McAlphin's niece, Danielle McAlphin, was a child when she first met Mercedes, whom she called "Aunty Cheryl." Her uncle and Mercedes were together for at least a year before the killing.

"When he brought her to my grandma's house, he said they had been in Florida," Danielle McAlphin told HuffPost. "She was real sweet and kindhearted. She didn't bother anybody, because she was kind of timid. It seemed like she was running from something. I also remember thinking she was a stripper because of the stuff she wore -- tank tops and the short booty shorts that were cut off. But she always had money -- like wads of money, all the time."

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Dwayne McCorkendale was shot and killed at an Oklahoma highway rest stop in November 1988.

Police learned Mercedes had once worked as an exotic dancer in Dallas -- where she first met McAlphin. She also danced at strip clubs in Little Rock, Arkansas, and possibly in Virginia and Minnesota.

"She told quite a few different things to different people," Phillips said. "She told people she was in the witness protection program and that her father was in the Mafia. There were rumors she was wanted for bank robberies on the East Coast, and she told some people she had been with a black male at a truck stop. She said he made her go up to the trucks and make contact with the truck drivers and that he actually shot and killed one of the truck drivers and they were on the run for that."

Police briefly considered her a possible person of interest in the Nov. 12, 1988, slaying of Dwayne McCorkendale, a 27-year-old truck driver who was fatally shot at a highway rest stop in Chandler, Oklahoma. The suspects were described to police as a white male and a black male, sometimes accompanied by a white female, in a brown Ford Pinto.

The lead investigator in the case "wasn't able to determine anything," Phillips said. "So we don't know. We're just left guessing."

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An undated photo of Mercedes that was found in her belongings after her death.
El Dorado Police Department

Mercedes shared a story with a volunteer at the Salvation Army in El Dorado, where she briefly stayed in March 1991. According to Phillips, she told the volunteer she once lived at 1100 Cadiz St. in Dallas -- an address that corresponds to the Dallas LIFE Homeless Shelter.

"She told the lady that when she was there, a child had been taken away from her by social services and that when the child was taken from her, she was using another name, so she could not go get the child back," Phillips said.

The shelter's records from the period have been destroyed and everyone who worked there at the time is gone, a spokesperson said.

Phillips said Mercedes fell under suspicion in at least one bank robbery, but was quickly cleared. Investigators found no evidence she was involved in the Mafia or a witness protection program.

As detectives worked to identify Mercedes, James McAlphin entered a plea agreement with the prosecutor. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 15 years.

"Cost me 13 years of my life," McAlphin said. "Went in at 26, came out at 40. Guess everything [that] looks good, ain't good."

McAlphin has spent most of his adult life in jail and has a criminal record that "reads like an encyclopedia," Phillips said.

Though he said he won't reveal Mercedes' true identity unless he's paid, he did share some details about her, which may or may not be true.

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James McAlphin sent multiple letters to HuffPost about the case.
Isabella Carapella

McAlphin said Mercedes chose to disguise her identity "because the lifestyle she chose would have embarrassed the people she left behind."

"She was very young when she was taken. At one time, she was taken from her loved ones by force, but as an adult it was willingly," McAlphin said.

McAlphin said Mercedes was older than him -- he said he was 26 when they met -- and she had two children she left with "someone" in Fort Worth, Texas.

"Mercedes was on the street since [the] age of 16," he said. "A black guy she fell for allowed her to be pimped in Fort Worth and Dallas. These guys had other young girls, some kidnapped by force. These girls ... ended up across the border in El Paso or Brownsville, traded for Mexican girls if they were rebellious. Most of the loyal girls were trusted. Mercedes was one of these girls because of her relationship with a pimp named 'JD,' [whom] she ran away [from] with Tyrone. ... When I found out, I took Mercedes and ran for Louisiana. This and the things done with Tyrone were [the] reason for [her] alias name."

JD is Mercedes' former pimp, Jeffrey "JJ" Davis, of Dallas, Phillips said. Tyrone, detectives believe, was Mercedes' pimp in Florida. Investigators have been unable to locate him.

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Julie Ann Moseley, Rachel Arnold Trlica and Lisa Renee Wilson.

McAlphin also claimed Mercedes "grew up friends" with three girls kidnapped from a Fort Worth mall in the 1970s.

"These girls were like sisters to Mercedes," he said. "We use[d] to visit them. They grew up in captivity in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, sometimes in the same town where their parents were. By the time they were adults, they were willing members of the stable. The younger girl died giving birth to a child."

McAlphin appears to be referencing the Dec. 23, 1974, disappearance of Rachel Arnold Trlica, 17, Lisa Renee Wilson, 14, and Julie Ann Moseley, 9, from Seminary South Shopping Center in south Fort Worth.

Phillips said it's hard to believe anything McAlphin says.

"I've known him since I've worked here and he just doesn't have the truth in him," the detective said. "She may not have even divulged a whole lot of truths about herself to him. I think she's a runaway, and I think he's a creature of habit, and if he knew who she was he'd tell to try to get out of something."

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James McAlphin following his June 2011 incarceration. He was recently denied parole and must serve five more years behind bars.
Arkansas Department Of Corrections

For now, the evidence in Mercedes' case sits in a storage facility inside a box labeled "El Dorado Jane Doe." What the case won't do is go cold. The information McAlphin shared with HuffPost has given authorities new leads to explore in the ongoing pursuit of Mercedes' true identity.

"We're all trying to give her the proper burial she needs," Phillips said. "If I were her mother, I would want to know and I would want the rest of the family to have some peace and closure."

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Lt. Cathy Phillips at 870-881-4810. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may provide information by calling El Dorado Crime Stoppers at 1-870-863-4636. Additional information can be found at eldoradojanedoe.wix.com and facebook.com/ElDoradoDoe.

H/T: Lesha Johanneck, for recommending this case to The Huffington Post.

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Before You Go

Cold Cases
El Dorado Jane Doe(01 of18)
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We know who killed her. But we still don’t know her name. That is the enduring mystery that has left investigators stumped for more than two decades. Despite the passge in time, authorities beleive someone, somewhere, can still help solve the identity of the woman known as El Dorado Jane Doe.

READ:We Know Who Killed Her. But 24 Years Later, We Still Don’t Know Her Name
(credit:El Dorado Police Department)
Storyville Slayer(02 of18)
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Three decades ago, the melting pot of culture and tradition that makes up New Orleans was overshadowed by a cloud of evil. The historic metropolis that Louis Armstrong once dubbed the “Land of Dreams” had become a nightmare for the families of more than two dozen people who turned up dead in outlying swamps and bayous.

READ: Detective Tries To Solve 25-Year-Old Serial Killer Cold Case. One Suspect Is A Cop.
Eugene Hicks(03 of18)
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A woman’s quest to learn about her father’s 1983 murder uncovered mistakes that may have cost a retired Dallas Cowboys player his life.

READ:How Police Failures May Have Allowed A Cocaine Cowboy’s Suspected Killer To Strike Again
Deborah Lee Shelton And Victoria Lee Specials(04 of18)
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For 65 days in 1969, Marcia Shelton watched, waited and hoped against all odds that her missing 12-year-old daughter, Deborah Lee Shelton, would turn up safe and sound. Then, in December 2001, there was another tragedy as equally disturbing as the first -- the disappearance of her second daughter, 44-year-old Victoria Lee Specials. Marcia Shelton found herself left with the memories of two daughters, taken under mysterious circumstances three decades apart.

Read More:Sisters Deborah Lee Shelton And Victoria Lee Specials Vanish 32 Years Apart
(credit:Marcia Shelton)
Tamala Wells(05 of18)
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Tamala Wells, of Detroit, disappeared on Aug. 6, 2012. Her mother, Donna Wells-Davis, learned of her daughter's disappearance on Aug. 7, 2012, when she received a phone call from her granddaughter, who was then 6 years old. The little girl said that her mom, then 33, had gone out the previous night and never returned.

The mystery deepened when the Pontiac that Wells had supposedly been driving was found abandoned just a few blocks from her home.

In an interview with HuffPost, the father of Wells' daughter denied any involvement in Wells' disappearance, but he didn't deny how he feels about the mother of his child -- or about the child herself.

"She gives me a headache," Rickey Tennant said. "[Wells] used to give me a headache, but I dealt with it, and I'm looking at it right now as 'one headache is better than two headaches.'"

READ:Ex-Boyfriend Calls Missing Woman One Less 'Headache'
(credit:Donna Wells-Davis)
Joy Hibbs(06 of18)
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On April 19, 1991, the body of 36-year-old Joy Hibbs was found inside her burned-out home in Bristol Township, Pennsylvania. According to retired Bristol Township Detective Lt. Richard Bilson, the scene inside the bedroom where Hibbs was found was horrific.

"She was lying face-up on a mattress that was nothing but springs," Bilson told HuffPost. "Her body was black -- completely burnt beyond recognition. She looked like a mummy and the entire room was charred."

Bilson said fire investigators initially thought Joy Hibbs was the tragic victim of a house fire. The following day, a coroner confirmed part of that theory -- her death was tragic, albeit no accident. "The coroner advised us she died before the fire started," Bilson said. "He located five stab wounds, to her neck and chest, and there was a computer cord wrapped around her neck. At that point, it became a homicide investigation."

Read More:Pennsylvania Mom's Brutal Murder An Enduring Mystery
(credit:David Hibbs)
Terry And Darleen Anderson(07 of18)
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In October 2005, an unknown intruder brutally murdered Terry and Darleen Anderson. The crime -- LaGrange County, Indiana's first double homicide -- shocked their rural community and left many deep emotional scars.

Inside the couple's home, Darleen was found still dressed in her nightclothes, slumped over on the couch. A book was in her lap and a bowl of popcorn was sitting next to her. Someone had viciously attacked the 57-year-old woman while she sat relaxing inside her home.

Outside, in a nearby pole barn, lay Darleen's husband of 25 years. Like his wife, the 59-year-old had been brutally bludgeoned to death.

With few clues to follow, the case quickly went cold. Many questions still remain.

READ:Who Killed Terry And Darleen Anderson?
Neal King(08 of18)
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Neal Forrest King came to California to make his fortune in the burgeoning illegal marijuana trade. In 2013, the 24-year-old former Texan disappeared like a puff of smoke. March 26 was the last time Jeanette Tully, King's girlfriend of six years, saw him.

"It's so painful, and I don't think the pain will ever go away," Tully told HuffPost at the time. "I'm 25, and I was ready to spend rest of my life with him. Our love was true, honest and pure."

King's mother, Gayle King, described her son's disappearance as inexplicable. "Neal was a kind person and an amazing son," she said. "That's just how he was. He had strong family values. Family for him was everything."

Read More:Marijuana Farmer Neal King Disappears Amid Strange Circumstances
Brian Barton(09 of18)
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Punk rock musician Brian Barton was well on his way to success in 2005. The 25-year-old was in love, was a member of As Fate Would Have It -- a band quickly growing in popularity -- and was gearing up for his first music tour. To outsiders looking in, all the stars in Barton's universe appeared to be in alignment. However, appearances can be deceiving. When Barton disappeared prior to the start of the band's breakout music tour, the bizarre circumstances surrounding his disappearance pitted friends and bandmates against each other.

Read More:Did Seattle Punk Rocker Brian Barton Stage His Own Disappearance?
Judith Geurin(10 of18)
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Relatives of Judith Geurin last spoke with the 45-year-old mom in January 1991. Geurin's disappearance is rooted in events that transpired in July 1988, when her husband of 18 years, 57-year-old Joseph Geurin, died of a heart attack. According to family members, Joseph's death devastated her and shattered the family. The grief, they said, was so severe that her mom turned to alcohol for solace.

By January 1989, Judith Geurin had collected more than $250,000 in life insurance and pension funds granted to her following her husband's death. She sold the family's four-bedroom, colonial-style house and took out a mortgage on a two-family duplex in nearby Troy. Geurin's children, then ages 21, 16, 13 and 11 -- moved into the duplex. However, unbeknownst to them until moving day, their mother had other plans.

Instead of following her children, Geurin moved in with 27-year-old Curtis Pucci. In 1990, Geurin and Pucci moved some 200 miles southwest of Albany to Sodus Point. Even though she had all but abandoned her children, Geurin kept in regular contact with her eldest daughter until January 1991, when Geurin vanished without a trace.

Read More:Daughter's Search For Mom Goes On, 23 Years After She Disappeared
(credit:Amy Kusaywa)
Anita Knutson(11 of18)
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In 2007, Anita Knutson was an 18-year-old Minot State University student majoring in elementary education. Knutson was, according to her family, exceptionally responsible for her age and juggled three part-time jobs while attending college.

Despite a busy life, she kept in regular contact with her family. So, when she went two days without returning phone calls, her father went to her off-campus apartment on June 4, 2007.

When repeated knocks to the door of her 4th Street apartment went unanswered, her father had the building manager open the door. When the concerned father stepped inside, his worst fears became a reality when he found his daughter's lifeless body on the floor of her bedroom.

Authorities determined the young woman had been stabbed multiple times, more than a day before her body was found. The murder weapon, a bloody knife, was found discarded in a sink. Detectives also determined someone had cut the screen to Knutson's bedroom window, presumable to gain entry into her apartment.

Despite an intensive investigation, authorities were unable to identify a suspect or person of interest in her murder and the case went cold.

READ:Family Of Murdered MSU Student Demands Answers
(credit:Anna Knutson)
JonBenet Ramsey(12 of18)
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On Dec. 26, 1996, 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found bludgeoned and strangled to death in the basement of her family's Boulder, Colorado, home. A ransom note from an anonymous group of individuals "that represent a foreign faction" asking for $118,000 in exchange for the safe return of JonBenet was found just hours before, but no call ever came from a kidnapper and it was never linked to a murderer. The entire Ramsey family was cleared of any involvement in the murder of JonBenet back in 2008, thanks to then newly discovered DNA evidence, according to 9News.

Beginning in 2010, investigators reopened the case and launched a fresh round of interviews with witnesses that could provide more insight into the murder, according to ABC News, but nothing fruitful came of those interviews. The DNA evidence still points to an "unexplained third party" that serves as a vague lead for authorities still pursuing the case, Time magazine reported. Boulder police have tested more than 150 DNA samples and investigated nearly the same amount of potential suspects in their ongoing investigation, but none have ever been linked to the crime.

Read More:JonBenet Ramsey's Killer 'May Be Lost Forever'
(credit:Boulder Police Department)
Kathleen Kolodziej(13 of18)
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Kathleen Kolodziej was reported missing to police in Duanesburg, New York, on Nov. 2, 1974. The 17-year-old college student was last seen early that morning at a local bar. Kolodziej's whereabouts remained a mystery until Nov. 28, 1974, Thanksgiving morning, when investigators located her partially clothed body.

Read More:Kathleen Kolodziej's Murder A 38-Year Mystery
(credit:New York State Police)
John Spira(14 of18)
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John Spira, a 45-year-old blues-rock musician from Chicago known as "Chicago Johnny," has been missing since Feb. 23, 2007. He was last seen at about 7 p.m. at Universal Cable Construction Inc. in DuPage County. Spira co-owned the company with David Stubben, his business partner of 17 years. Spira had plans to meet a friend for dinner in nearby Oak Brook at 8:30 p.m., but he never arrived. The following evening, John's band, The Rabble Rousers, was scheduled to play in Montgomery. However, "Chicago Johnny," well-respected and normally reliable, was a no-show.

Read More:John Spira Still Missing 5 Years Later
(credit:Stephanie Spira McNeil)
Bobbi Ann Campbell(15 of18)
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It has been many years since anyone has seen Utah mom Bobbi Ann Campbell. She was last seen in Salt Lake City in December 1994, when she dropped her 5-year-old daughter off at a friend's house. The young mother said she would return after she picked up her paycheck from work and purchased groceries. She never came back. Campbell, then 24, was there one minute and gone the next. She left no immediate trace and no trail to follow.

Read More:Bobbi Ann Campbell Missing: Daughter Seeks Closure In 19-Year-Old Case
(credit:Stephanie Cook)
Colonial Parkway Murders(16 of18)
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The victims, eight in all, came in pairs. Many were young lovers who apparently met their fates mid-assignation. Each of the homicides occurred along the scenic 23-mile route between Jamestown and Yorktown in Virginia, giving them a ready name: the Colonial Parkway murders. Due to the shared location and other similarities among the deaths, law enforcement officials viewed them as the work of a possible serial killer.

Read More:Unsolved Murders Of Young Lovers In Va.
(credit:Police File Photos)
Sarah Kinslow(17 of18)
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Sarah Kinslow was last seen by her parents on May 1, 2001, when her dad dropped her off at Greenville Middle School in her hometown of Greenville, Texas, at approximately 7:20 a.m. It was not until after the school day ended that the Kinslows were notified their daughter had not attended any of her classes. When Louise Kinslow spoke to her daughter's friends, they said her daughter was supposed to skip school with them that day and meet up at nearby East Mount Cemetery. Concerned, Kinslow contacted police and reported the teen missing.

Authorities took an article of Sarah Kinslow's clothing from the family home and brought a tracking dog to the school. Investigators were able to pick up her scent where she had exited her father's car. The dog followed the scent around the school and to a location two blocks away, where...

Read More:Sarah Kinslow Missing: 11 Years, No Answers
(credit:Louise Kinslow)
Robert Levinson(18 of18)
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Robert Levinson is a former FBI special agent who retired from the FBI in 1998 after 22 years of service. In March 2007, Levinson traveled to Kish Island, Iran, as a private investigator to reportedly look into a cigarette smuggling investigation. He disappeared on March 9 of that year. In 2010, a video purportedly showing Levinson in captivity was sent to his family by his alleged captors.

Read More:Retired FBI Agent Missing Since 2007