After 30 years, two murder victims identified through DNA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A man and woman violently killed in separate Volusia homicides who have remained nameless for at least 30 years, their cases going cold, have finally been identified through their DNA, officials said this week.

Volusia County sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Gant said that John Doe 1986 has been identified as Howard “Kip” Evans, and Jane Doe 1991 was identified as Doris Regina Chavers.

“I hope this sends a message that we never ever stop working on homicide cases,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood. “We keep working them until the science comes along that may give the victims’ families closure.”

Many years have passed since Evans’ and Chavers’ murders, but with the identification of the victims it is possible that new leads may come in to investigators, Chitwood said.

“I’m not aware of any new leads but you never know,” Chitwood said.

Evans’ skeletal remains were found on Jan. 18, 1986, off Pump House Road near Jones Island Road in the Ormond Beach area. His remains had been there for an undetermined amount of time, Gant said.

A forensic examination of Evans’ skeleton revealed violent trauma and that he was murdered.

Volusia County sheriff’s investigators worked Evans’ case, following various leads and tips throughout the years, but were unable to get his identification so Evans’ case went cold and became known only as “John Doe 1986,” Gant said.

Between 2006 and 2011, DNA was obtained from Evans’ skeletal remains and sent to several laboratories for comparison to DNA in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), but there were no matches.

Not giving up, investigators in 2014 generated facial reconstruction models through the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science at the University of South Florida, Gant said.

And in 2019, the Major Case Unit received information about social media posts generated in a Missing Persons group, discussing that a woman’s son, Howard Evans, had been missing since 1984 and was last known to be in Volusia County. Evans was about 29 years old at the time he went missing, Gant said.

No formal missing person’s report was done on Evans and since he had been missing for six years, his family had him legally declared deceased in 1990, investigators said.

As the follow-up investigation continued, detectives obtained a DNA sample from Evans’ mother, who resided in South Carolina. The DNA analysis performed by the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) and the FBI, this month, determined that John Doe 1986, was the South Carolina woman’s son, Evans, authorities said.

Evans would have been 65 on March 3, Gant indicated.

Evans’ mother was notified that her son, who she last had contact with nearly 36 years ago, had been located. The Medical Examiner’s Office is working with Evans’ family for the release of his remains, Gant said.

In Chavers’ case, the woman was last seen alive at her mother’s Sanford home in August 1989. She was 32, Gant said.

Chavers was reported missing on Aug. 1, 1990 to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

Then, on Aug. 19, 1991, Volusia County deputies were called by two fishermen who found skeletal remains in a heavily wooded area off the 400 block of Enterprise Osteen Road in Osteen.

Due to the condition of the remains, identification was not possible. At that time, DNA technology was not what it is today, Gant said.

In September 1991, an autopsy determined that the remains were that of a woman, potentially in her 30s or 40s, and that she had died from violent trauma. Jane Doe 1991′s death was ruled a homicide, investigators said.

As the death investigation progressed, detectives searched databases at their disposal for any and all means to identify the victim. Detectives entered the case into an FBI database in an effort to identify Jane Doe and to generate possible leads. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful, and the case went cold, according to a news release from Gant.

In August 2018, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office conducted further investigation into the Chavers missing person case and detectives were able to track down Chavers’ biological daughter and obtain a familial DNA sample, which was sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI).

On Jan. 21 of this year, both Volusia and Seminole detectives were notified by UNTCHI that the familial DNA sample collected from Chavers’ biological daughter was a match to the skeletal remains found in Volusia County in 1991, Gant said.

Volusia detectives contacted Chavers’ daughter to deliver the news and said she was relieved that her mother had been found, authorities said.

The daughter said she always felt that something terrible must have happened, and that her mother would have never just abandoned her, Gant’s news release states.

“I’m really proud of my detectives. They have the passion to solve the cases in hopes of locking up the bad guys,” Chitwood said. “They are the only link to families and what happened to their loved ones.”

The investigations into Evans’ and Chavers’ cases are ongoing and anyone with information about either case is encouraged to contact the Volusia Sheriff’s Office Major Case Unit at 386-254-1537.

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