On November 1, 1980, a young female was found on the side of the road in Texas; she had been raped and strangled. Her identity remained unknown for 41 years. In 2021, she was identified as Sherri Jarvis. Her murder remains unsolved.
Sherri Jarvis was born on March 9, 1966. She had lived with her family in Stillwater, Minnesota, until the state removed her for truancy when she was 13. After running away from the state, she sent a letter to her family saying she would eventually return home. It is unclear what state agency was responsible for Sherri at the time she ran away as all the records from that time had been purged, according to a press release from the Walker County Sheriff’s Office.
On November 1, 1980, a truck driver was driving down Interstate Highway 25, in Walker County, Texas, about 2 miles away from Huntsville, Texas, when he saw a body on the side of the road. He called 911 around 9:20 to tell the police.
The medical examiner estimated Sherri was murdered approximately 6 hours before she was found, making her time of death around 3:00 a.m. on November 1, 1980They determined Sherri was raped and sodomized with a blunt instrument. Pieces of pantyhose and the victim’s underwear were found inside her vaginal cavity. There was no evidence that a human had sexually assaulted her; semen was not found at the scene. She was severely beaten and had bruises all over her body. A bite wound was on her right shoulder. Investigators believed she was killed elsewhere and her remains left on the side of the road. The corner determined the cause of death was asphyxia, specifically ligature strangulation with pantyhose.
Police determined by talking to locals that Sherri arrived in Huntsville, Texas, on October 31, 1980. Different individuals had spoken to Sherri, though they did not know her name. Her first stop was a gas station in the south of Huntsville, Texas. Sherri asked the attendant where the Texas Department of Corrections Ellis Prison Farm was; she got directions and left. The owner of the gas station was able to identify the victim was the same person he had spoken to but could not help with her identity.
Sherri’s second stop was a truck stop along Interstate 45, in the north Huntsville, Texas. She had the employees for directions to the same prison she had asked the gas station owner. One of the people who gave her directions asked where her parents were. Sherri responded with, “Who cares?”. She told them she was from the Rockport-Aransas County area. The witnesses from the truck stop could also verify the victim was the same girl they had spoken to, but did not know who she was.
Investigators traveled to the Rockport-Aransas County Pass area and checked with the schools and asked law enforcement there if anyone knew the victim; nobody did. They also went to the Ellis Prison Farm to ask the inmates and officers there if anyone had known the victim. Nobody at the prison could identify her either.
Though investigators pursued many leads over the years but eventually the case went cold. Officials buried the unidentified victim on January 16, 1981, in the Oakwood Cemetery. Her tombstone read “unknown white female, died Nov. 1, 1980”.
Sherri Jarvis is Identified
In July 2020, investigators and Othram Labs could legally test DNA taken from the autopsy. Ortham Labs used forensic grade genome sequencing to build a family tree from DNA that may have been previously unusable, according to a statement from Ortham Labs giving during a press conference.
In March 2021, Ortham Labs located 6 people who may have been related to the victim. With the help of the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, they built more of the family tree and reached out to the potential family members. They confirmed the victim was Sherri Jarvis.
During the press conference, a statement written by Sherri’s family was read by an officer with the Walker County Sheriff’s office:
“We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Detective Thomas Bean and all cooperating agencies and people involved in identifying Sherri Ann Jarvis’ remains. We would also like to express our gratitude to Morris Memorials for donating Sherri’s headstone and all the people who visited her burial site throughout the years. We lost Sherri more than 41 years ago and we’ve lived in bewilderment every day since. Until now, as she has finally been found.
We contacted the Salvation Army and hired a private investigator in an attempt to locate her, but to no avail. The dedication of the aforementioned people led to our reunion with Sherri and provided long awaited, albeit painful answers to our questions on her whereabouts. Sherri Ann Jarvis was a daughter, sister, cousin, and granddaughter. She loved children, animals and horseback riding.
She was a tender 13 years of age when the state removed her from our home for habitual truancy. Sherri never returned to our home, as promised in a letter we received from her shortly after her departure. She was deprived of so many life experiences as a result of this tragedy. She was denied the opportunity to experience romance and love, marital bliss, the heartache and pain of loss, the pure joy of having children or growing old and being able to reflect on such milestones afforded an abounding lifetime.
Our parents passed away never knowing what happened to her or having any form of closure, but we are grateful that they never had to endure the pain of knowing her death was so brutal. We take a measure of comfort in knowing that she has been identified and where she is located so we may pay our respects at her final resting place. We will continue to support those seeking her killer (s) because she did not deserve the death she received and justice served to those who would commit such a heinous act would be fitting tribute to Sherri. We love and miss Sherri very much. You are with mom and dad now, Sherri. May you rest in peace.”
The murder of Sherri Jarvis remains unsolved. Investigators are hoping that knowing the identity of the victim will help them find her killer. If anyone has any information that will help solve the case contact the Walker County Sheriff’s office at (936) 435-2400.