A friend of mine and myself were talking about serial killers and the people they hunted, and as she was living in Texas, we were kicking around the women the police had found, and couldn’t identify. One of them, whose body was found in 1979, was only known as “Orange Socks” because of the color of her footwear because that was all she was wearing. Beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled, Orange Socks was just another dead woman in a long list of Jane Doe murders in Texas, and the United States.
It’s easy for someone to disappear, and even easier forty years ago. I think serial killers have been driven into being a threatened species of murderers by the Internet age. DNA technology alone has put many of them in prison or in a grave. Yet for every serial killer that reaches our collective consciousness, you have to wonder if there are those out there who are just so damn good at what they do, no one ever hears about them.
I’m one of the few people I know who have logged thousands of miles hitchhiking. I did all of my free riding back in the early ’80s, and it was already getting weird and scary back then. Orange Socks was found in 1979, about the time I was beginning to wander a bit.
But women, back then, and even now, have a hell of a lot more to worry about than guys ever have or ever will. It’s unknown where Orange Socks was, or what she was doing, or who she was with, at the time of her murder, but we do know a man killed her. Her body was moved out of a vehicle thrown over a guardrail and dragged into a culvert. It’s believed she had only been there a few hours before she was found.
The American urge for genealogy has also proved to be the bane of serial killers. They’re relatives submit DNA, and law enforcement will submit forensic evidence to see if there’s a close match somewhere. This has put more than a few criminals behind bars, and I’m guessing there’ll be more in the future.
It’s hard to believe they released the crime scene photos of this woman, this person, this human being, but they are out there.
I wonder if it’s worse when there is nothing. No body, no trace, just a loved one who was there and then not. Elizabeth Gill went missing from her front yard in 1965, at age two. Her sister, Martha and I are FB friends. She’s still trying, still looking, still doing everything she can, but what can she do?
I wonder why the family of Orange Socks never put that sort of effort into finding her. She was never reported missing. We know this because last year, her sister saw a composite drawing on television and contacted police. Orange Socks was identified as Debra Jackson. The family thought she was out there on her own, “doing okay.”
I’m not sure why the stories of Elizabeth Gill and Debra Jackson have stuck in my memory the way they have. Both missing for a long time, one searched for relentlessly and the other nearly forgotten in her own life. But both of them living in a country where girls and women go missing and have gone missing, and there are still no answers as to what we can do, or how to do it, and why we haven’t yet.
The Grave of Debra Jackson.