Carolyn Jeanette Dunn Moudy disappeared from Indianola in 1974, leaving behind two daughters. Her fate remained a mystery for over four decades. Thanks to the combined work of a south Florida cold case unit and one of the nation’s leading genetic genealogists, Carolyn was recently identified as a Jane Doe who was found murdered in Davie, Fla. in 1975. With answers have come more questions for her family and the detectives.
Why did she leave Indianola? What was she doing in Florida? And who killed Carolyn Moudy?
This is her story.
Edna Moudy was just three days old when her mother disappeared.
Carolyn Jeanette Dunn Moudy was not yet 21 when she delivered her third child at South Sunflower County Hospital in Indianola in the summer of 1974.
Carolyn Denise Moudy, her firstborn, had died during childbirth around 1971. Her second daughter, Carolyn Jeanette, who is called Jeanette by her family, was born a couple of years later.
And then there was Edna, , likely born premature, and so small that she had to wear the clothes from a baby doll, her sister recalls.
“I was 3 years old when our mother left over in Indianola, Mississippi,” Jeanette, who now lives in Greenville not far from Edna, said. “(Edna) was newborn. She left her in the hospital.”
What happened to the young mother after that day had been a mystery for 46 years.
That was until a pair of detectives in the south Florida city of Davie decided to open a cold case unit.
There were a lot of old files that had collected dust over the decades. One was that of a woman, whose body had been discovered in a Davie canal two days before Christmas in 1975.
“We started working on organizing them, and that is how we came across our 1975 unidentified (case),” said Davie Police Detective Eddy Velazquez who spoke to The Enterprise-Tocsin last week, along with crime scene technician Bertha Hurtado. “As we decided to move forward with starting a unit, we decided we needed to start with a case, and we started with the 1975 case to really put our hearts and souls into. And we did.”
For decades, Edna and Jeanette had no idea what had become of their mother, but thanks to advances in DNA technology, and the use of genetic genealogy, the detectives were able to confirm that their Jane Doe was indeed the young mother from Indianola.
The original autopsy lists her cause of death as drowning, but the medical examiner did not say whether it was an accident, murder or suicide.
There are few details available, but the cold case detectives are certain she was murdered.
According to local news reports at the time, it is believed that the body had been in the canal for at least five to ten days prior to being discovered on December 23, 1975, just one day before her 22nd birthday.
Her articles of clothing and the jewelry she had on her were described in great detail in the Miami Herald at the time, but apparently there was no one in the Miami area who would or could make a positive identification.
Back in Indianola, Carolyn’s family moved on.
David Earl Moudy, her husband and the father of her three girls, filed for divorce in September of 1974, according to county records. He was granted a divorce in Sunflower County in November of 1975, just weeks before Carolyn’s death.
David Moudy spent a good deal of time in and out of jail.
He was convicted of a capital offense in 1981. He received a prison sentence, and that is where he died, according to his children.
The girls were taken in and raised by their grandmother, Edna Earl Moudy.
Jeanette became more than a sister to young Edna. She was like a mother to her too.
“I had to show her how to do everything, step up whenever she started talking and walking and going to the bathroom and stuff. I had to teach her,” Jeanette said. “I mostly took care of her. Our grandmother helped us, but I mostly helped her.”
The women pull no punches about their childhood and their mother.
“She shouldn’t have left,” Jeanette said, admitting that she was bitter for many years about her mother leaving. But she has had a change of heart since receiving the news from Florida.
“Now I regret the stuff that I said,” she told us.
Edna, who never had the opportunity to properly meet her mother has long since forgiven her.
Before she got the news about her mother’s body being discovered in Florida, she had searched for her, and she had hoped she would return home someday.
“I do forgive her,” Edna said. “I never met her, but my momma was my best friend.”
Carolyn Was Somebody
Davie, Florida’s newly-formed cold case unit’s first case had some obvious challenges.
When Eddy Velazquez and Bertha Hurtado first opened the file, they had no body. The medical examiner’s original report did not specify how she died, other than drowning, and the detectives were led to believe early on that her body had been cremated back in the 1970s.
“As that process continued, we found that certain elements were in our possession, meaning human remains that we had in our property, which were the maxilla and the mandible,” Hurtado said. “There were certain things we could do to identify or look at certain individual characteristics on these bones and see if these characteristics were unique.”
From those two bones, the first composite sketch was made and released to the public.
It produced no leads.
Velazquez and Hurtado decided to check with the medical examiner’s office to see what they had in their files.
“Come to find out, she was not cremated,” Hurtado said. “She had been buried somewhere in Davie, as a matter of fact.”
But there was no indication from those files where she had been buried.
The detectives started calling around to area funeral homes.
As it turns out, Carolyn was buried about three miles from the police department.
Velazquez went right to work on an exhumation warrant.
“That was one of the most important steps, to exhume her body,” Hurtado said.
Forensic anthropologists were able to put together a new sketch, but like before, there were still no leads.
“It was a matter of time to obtain the bone samples so that we could send it off to extract DNA and have it analyzed,” Hurtado said.
Once the DNA was extracted, the Davie Police Department enlisted the help of Parabon NanoLabs and CeCe Moore, chief genetic genealogist at the company.
Moore, who has been featured in multiple network television true crime productions including ABC’s The Genetic Detective (2020) and PBS’ Finding Your Roots, has helped solved dozens of cold case crimes through the use of genetic genealogy.
Moore’s early work mostly involved helping reunite adopted and abandoned children with their birth parents. Over the last decade, her focus has shifted to cold cases.
“My work has always been about families and providing answers, helping to resolve identity questions,” Moore told The E-T. "This work is more sad when compared to my work with adoptees because it is giving those answers in death, reuniting the families in death rather than in life, but it is still very much the same process and in line with the same goals that I have always believed were very important."
Moore uses two main databases to compare DNA samples from Jane or John Does and crime scene evidence. Those are GEDmatch and Family Tree.
Law enforcement currently does not have access to the tens of millions of DNA profiles at the largest ancestry sites like 23andMe, but those two databases were all Moore needed to get started with the Davie case, although it would prove to be one of her most challenging.
“(The detectives) got excited about the idea of trying to use genetic genealogy to identify this murder victim that their department had never been able to identify for all these decades,” Moore said. “They reached out to Parabon. They sent the DNA to be analyzed using this advanced technique.”
The first issue, Moore said, was the fact that the exhumed body had been contaminated with bacterial DNA, which can degrade the victim’s actual DNA.
"The scientists go through the data and try to separate out the bacterial DNA and fix the degraded sections of the genome to create the file that we ultimately need to upload to GEDmatch,” she said. “This one took a lot of work by our scientists at Parabon. A lot happens on some of these cases before it comes to me, because I don’t start working until it is uploaded to GEDmatch. There can be a lot of work behind the scenes just to try to get that DNA into the right format so that I can do my work…Fortunately, they were successful.”
Moore went to work. Several people showed up in the databases who shared at least some DNA with her Jane Doe.
“In these databases, we don’t expect to get an immediate family member or a close family member,” she said. “We’re just hoping for a second, third or fourth cousin to this unknown individual. We get a list of people who share DNA.”
When she first got the leads, she thought it would be a matter of days before she narrowed it down. But days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months.
“Normally, it would be really straightforward,” she said. "I would build the matches' family trees, figure out the common ancestors between them and then build forward in time from those ancestors and find the missing woman."
Moore eventually traced the family line to Neshoba County.
She faced a tall task, but she gave the detectives a few family names to contact.
“They didn’t know of any missing people, but one of them agreed to provide his DNA,” Moore said. “When we got his DNA analyzed, he was an even closer relative than I had previously. That was super helpful. That allowed me to focus on a different branch, the one related to him, but not his immediate family.”
She then gave the detectives another family to contact.
That is when they learned about Carolyn’s disappearance.
“It was really complicated,” Moore said. “If those detectives had not been so determined and so willing to follow up, we wouldn’t have found her.”
Carolyn’s sister was contacted by the detectives, her daughters said, and then the aunt reached out to them.
“At that point, they collected DNA from her daughter, so that they could confirm,” Moore said. “We were quite sure we had the right person, but until we get DNA confirmation from testing a very close family member, we are not done."
Through her research, Moore learned that Carolyn was born in Philadelphia in Neshoba County. The Dunn family moved to Sunflower County sometime after that.
The E-T did an exhaustive search at the library in multiple high school yearbooks, but we could not find any record of Carolyn attending school here.
She did marry, likely sometime in the early 1970s, and she gave birth to three daughters before leaving town.
Her daughters insist that she did not leave town alone.
Jeanette said she recalls the individual her mother reportedly left with, even though she was very young at the time.
To add another twist to the story, Carolyn’s own mother had gone missing from the area in 1964, and the family apparently did not hear from her after that.
Hurtado said that during the course of the cold case investigation, they learned Carolyn’s mother lived 42 more years and died in Florida in 2006.
It’s not clear at this time whether there is any connection between Carolyn being in Florida in 1975 and her mother dying in that same state years later.
Justice for Carolyn
Cold case detectives in Davie, Florida have gone from having a Jane Doe to now focusing on finding her killer.
“That’s something that we’re going through now,” the lead detective Velazquez said. “It’s obvious that things were so much different back then, as far as evidence and DNA and stuff like that. We’re definitely working different angles from this point forward. We’re working toward that direction, at least trying to identify who was involved in her murder.”
The detectives cannot reveal much, but they would like to know what Carolyn was doing a good 15-hour drive away from her home in the Mississippi Delta.
“That’s what we don’t know,” Velazquez said. “We don’t know. There are allegations, and we never go off allegations, but we don’t know that.”
Her daughters are just as passionate about finding Carolyn’s killer.
A few weeks ago, Edna went to Davie, where she learned the details about her mother’s fate.
She even visited the canal where her mother’s body was discovered over four decades ago.
“She couldn’t have fell into that thing without somebody pushing her,” Edna said.
While there, she received some of the personal items her mother had on her, some of which had been described in the papers many years ago, including a mood ring and a necklace.
Jeanette wears the ring. Edna has the necklace.
She also brought her mother’s cremated remains home, and the sisters hope to spread them in an appropriate place soon.
But that is hardly closure. There are still so many unanswered questions.
“I need to find out if she had a place down there,” Edna said. “She had to lay her head somewhere before she even got killed. She had to have a home.”
Both sisters say they feel a spiritual connection to their mother, even though the few memories that exist have faded with time for Jeanette.
For Edna, left so many years ago in that hospital room, she thinks often of meeting her mother face-to-face.
“I would go meet with her,” she said. “If she didn’t want to have anything to do with me, that would be okay, but I did want to meet her and ask her why she left…When I talk to my momma, I say, ‘I love you, I forgive you, and I wanted to meet you.’”