BATAVIA — The head.
I always will remember the head.
About 25 years ago I walked into the barracks at Troop A on West Saile Drive, there to interview members of the Forensic Identification Unit.
These were the guys they sent out whenever there was a murder in the vast nine-county region that is Troop A.
A crack team of investigators.
I barely recall the interview or the subsequent story that I wrote.
The vivid memory I do have of that day is seeing the head.
It sat on a filing cabinet, a model of a young woman’s head with a mop of dirty blonde hair that fell in wisps over her face.
Her eyes were solemn and her lips were perfect, even if the model was cracked and scarred from age.
“What’s that?” I remember asking Robert Bachorski, one of the investigators.
It was then that he told me the story.
On Oct. 29, 1983 a hunter was walking in the Alabama Swamps just off Route 63 in Shelby, a stone’s throw from the Genesee County line.
There in the brackish water was a badly decomposed body, the remains of a young woman, it would later be revealed.
A year later, the Center of Human Identification created a facial reconstruction from the remains. The head.
Maybe someone would recognize her. Chances were she was local and someone would be missing their daughter/sister/friend.
That wasn’t the case. For 30 years the woman remain unidentified and the sad, stark reminder remained at Troop A, moving from the forensic office to the display case in the lobby.
I would revisit the case from time to time, wondering why no one missed her.
Then, in April 2014 a phone call.
They had identified Jane Doe using advanced DNA technology.
The head was that of Shari Lynne Ball, an aspiring model from Florida.
She left her home on June 27, 1983, telling her mother that she was going to New York to pursue a modeling career.
One can only assume she meant New York City, not the rural township of Shelby.
She called her boyfriend two days later. She was in Virginia and would be speaking to him soon.
That was the last anyone ever heard from Shari Lynne Ball.
Tuesday, New York State Police focused on Shari Lynne for its Cold Case Tuesday feature.
Troop A revisits the case every two years or so in hopes that somehow the now 38-year-old murder will be solved.
It is likely that the case never will be solved. It’s also likely that the killer is dead.
Many believe Shari Lynne was killed by Christopher Wilder, a millionaire serial killer and photographer who lured young, pretty women by promising a modeling career.
His victims, at least 13 positively linked to Wilder, were found in Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, California and New York.
He was killed in a shoot-out with police in New Hampshire in April 1984.
Among his victims were Beth Dodge, 33, of Phelps, who Wilder picked up at Eastview Mall in Victor. Wilder raped and stabbed another woman in a rural area near the Finger Lakes. She survived.
Another woman, Elizabeth Kenyon, disappeared from a gas station in Coral Gables, Fla.
Her family is from Lockport and had a second home in Florida at the time.
So perhaps Cold Case Tuesday is a vain pursuit, searching for answers in a case that is all but solved.
That’s not how police, work, however.
“It’s great for her family,” Orleans District Attorney Joseph Cardone said after Shari Lynne was identified. “You always like to see some closure. Whether we can do something about it now is yet to be seen. We think it was Wilder’s work but we have no strong evidence linking him, other than his MO.
“It’s a case we’ll continue to work on.”
(At the time of her disappearance, Ball, 20, was living in Boca Raton, Fla. She is described as a white female, 5’ 4, 100 pounds, with hazel eyes and blonde hair. Shari Lynne was also known to use the last name of Timmerman.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Batavia by calling (585) 344-6200. Please refer to SJS - 3032334.)