A severed head found in a plastic bag along a stretch of highway in Louisiana in 2018 was identified this week as that of a 58-year-old Texas woman missing for more than three years, according to reports.
Sally Ann Hines, 58, was last seen Dec. 14, 2017, in her hometown of San Antonio, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Investigators distributed a composite sketch of Hines’ face in 2018 after sending her head to the Louisiana State University’s Faces laboratory for analysis. Her head was found by a sheriff’s team picking up litter in the marshland.
She was identified through dental records following a tip from a local woman who had noticed similarities in the composite image and Hines’ missing person flyer.
“This was just an individual that had an interest, and has an interest, in trying to match missing people with these various online sites and organizations,” Cameron Parish coroner Dr. Kevin Dupke said, according to KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Cameron Parish Sheriff Ron Johnson said it was ironic that “even though we were getting to the very detailed forensic examination, the case was basically solved by just an individual looking on the internet and at the end of the day that identifying the individual is the priority we did.”
He said killers sometimes leave bodies in the marshland where Hines’ head was found because “they believe that if they dump a body here, the alligators will eat it and they will disappear. Tragically this isn’t unusual for us,” the Express-News reported.
The rest of Hines’ remains have not been recovered and the cause and place of her death is still a mystery.
Hines had an apparent mental condition that was being treated by a doctor when she left her home at 3 a.m. the day she went missing without her shoes, phone, purse or medication, the newspaper reported.
“There are no words to express our heartache and emotions that we feel,” Hines’ sister, Barbara Gauthier, told KPLC. “We can only pray that they find out what happened to her and whoever did this horrific act pays for what they did to her. We will not rest until we know what happened.”
Hines had been married for 35 years when she went missing, FOX 29 in San Antonio reported.
“When I got up, she was gone,” her husband, Harold Hines, said in 2018. “She hadn’t come back, let’s put it that way.”
Johnson said the town of Cameron, Louisiana, which has a population of less than 500, hasn’t had a murder investigation since 1996 but he told the Express-News he remembers at least four women who had their bodies dumped there since the 1990s.
“We are very happy that we have the head ID’d but I am sure for the family, they are very sad about the negative news. Perhaps this helps them have some closure,” he said.