Spindale woman ID’d as victim in 1985 cold case


RUTHERFORD Co., N.C. (WSPA) — A local woman is getting answers more than three decades after her mother’s disappearance.

A DNA test this week confirmed that a Jane Doe whose body was found inside a refrigerator in Kentucky is indeed her mother. 

The woman, identified as Espy Regina Black-Pilgrim of Rutherford County, is also the subject of a podcast about six murdered women. 

The investigative podcaster worked with a high school sociology class in Tennessee and an FBI investigator to develop a profile of who they believe killed women in six cold cases across four states. He said they also worked alongside the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and detectives in the cases. They dubbed the killer the “Bible Belt Strangler.”

A woman was found dead in a discarded refrigerator off I-75 in southeast Kentucky. The gruesome discovery was made at a dump site in April 1985. She was known as Jane Doe until recently, when DNA identified her as Espy Regina Black-Pilgrim. Her daughter Elizabeth works in Rutherford County, according to a social media account. Investigative podcaster Shane Waters of the ‘Out of the Shadows’ podcast has been in touch with her. 

“Her mom was watching her. She was a young baby and when Elizabeth’s dad got home, mom was nowhere. Nowhere near. Elizabeth was just home alone, so we’re not sure what happened,” Waters said.

Waters began looking into the case about a year ago, along with the unsolved murders of five other women. 

“About a year ago, I started this journey with the redhead murders,” Waters said.

The victims all had red hair. They all had been on the side of interstates. They all had been found in the Bible Belt.

Black-Pilgrim’s family had no leads in her case until about a year ago when a family member stumbled upon a photo in a Facebook group called “Unidentified and Unclaimed People from the 1930- 2018).” She thought the woman in the photo might be Espy.

A DNA test was ordered, but the results didn’t come back for nearly a year. 

“I think for Elizabeth’s case, just as she shared with our other victim’s sister… think she knew that this was her mom, and, you know, we all were convinced and we knew the outcome and what had happened to her,” Waters said. “But just to have the stamp and say this is your mom….you know, Elizabeth never got the opportunity to get to know her.”

Elizabeth said in a social media post that she is not ready to speak with reporters about her mother. 

All six murder cases remain open.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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