Mother Knows Best: The Story of Theresa Jimmie Cross
On the morning of July 17, 1984, 45-year-old Maybel Harrison was driving on California's Highway 89 when she noticed a bright light illuminating the woods. Concerned that a fire had broken out, Maybel decided to investigate. From her vantage point on the interstate, Maybel wasn't sure what she was looking at, but as she made her way down the rocky slope to get a closer look, a permeating stench stopped her. Alarmed, she ran back up the incline and flagged down a truck.
Robert Eden stopped his truck when he saw Maybel waving her arms. When she told him there was an unusual fire burning at the bottom of the hill, Eden grabbed his fire extinguisher and the two headed toward the source. After Eden doused the flames and the smoke began to clear, he and Maybel discovered what appeared to be a charred human corpse. As soon as the reality of the situation hit him, Eden ran back to his truck and reported the grisly discovery to authorities on his CB radio.
Emergency services personnel were already surrounding the area by the time Tahoe City Detectives Russell Potts and Larry Addoms arrived on the scene. After looking over the gruesome sight, Potts requested that criminologist Michael Saggs and Placer County Sheriff Donald J. Nunes be brought in. Within an hour, the four men were taking soil samples and photographing the area. The body was badly burned and the lower portion of the victim's left leg was detached and lying next to the body. The left arm was propped up on its elbow and the right arm was extended at the victim's side. The only part of the body not burned was the left side of the victim's face. It was obvious that the victim was female: her breasts, although severely charred, remained visible.
In all, investigators collected more than 30 pieces of evidence, which they found on and around the body. Among the items cataloged, a green Pepsodent toothbrush, a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, a yellow and black scarf, an underwire size 32C bra from J.C. Penney's, a black onyx bracelet, disposable diapers, a pair of hoop earrings, and several miscellaneous articles of clothing. After finishing up the crime scene, investigators dubbed the body Jane Doe #4873/84 and sent her to the Placer County Morgue.
Less than two hours later, forensic pathologist Dr. A. V. Cunha conducted the autopsy. The victim was between 18 and 22 years old, 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighing approximately 115 pounds. The body showed signs of abuse, and there were two puncture wounds discovered on the victim's back. The discovery of an ovarian tumor indicated that Jane Doe had suffered a severe beating at some time prior to her death. Her physical injuries were life threatening, but the immediate cause of death was smoke inhalation. Following the autopsy, Jane Doe's fingers were removed and sent to Sacramento for prints. Her maxilla and mandible were also removed in case dental records surfaced. Investigators had few clues to go on and very little hope of discovering the identity of Jane Doe #4873/84.