At 6am on August 9, 1976, a trucker discovered the bodies of a young man and woman along a rural dirt road between Interstate 95 and South Carolina Highway 34 in Sumter County, South Carolina.
The trucker, Martin Durant, pulled over on the shoulder of Locklair Road to take a break from driving when he noticed the bodies sprawled out on the dirt road. He made his way to a nearby store and asked the owner to contact the authorities.
At the time of discovery, the man and woman had been dead for just a few hours and displayed no sign of decomposition. Their faces were recognizable, however neither had any form of identification on their person. They were photographed, finger-printed and x-rayed, but despite the good condition of the bodies and the information collected, they would remain unidentified for over four decades and their murders would remain unsolved.
Dr. Keene J. Garvin of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, performed the autopsies. Both the male and female had been shot three times in the upper chest with a .357 revolver. Some reports stated they had been shot in the throat or head; however, this is incorrect. The revolver was never recovered.
Around a year after the bodies were discovered, Ira Byrd Parnell, Sheriff with the Sumpter County Sheriff’s office at the time of the murders, held a funeral for the victims. John and Jane Doe were displayed in a local funeral home in caskets with glass lids for convenient viewing. Although some families with missing relatives did come to view the bodies, nobody could identify the male and female in the coffins and they ultimately remained unidentified and unclaimed.
Parnell had the young man and woman buried in a local cemetery near Bethnal United Methodist church in Oswego, where the Parnell family worshipped. Locals attended in droves to send the pair off.
Dr. Garvin would examine the bodies again in 2007 when they were exhumed to take bone and tooth samples for testing. They would be exhumed one last time in 2019 to extract DNA for the DNA Doe Project.
The victims were young. The male was estimated to be between 18 – 30 years old. He was Caucasian with olive skin and dark eyes and hair. His hair was medium length and shaggy and his eyebrows were strong and thick. He was lean and tall, standing at 6”1 and weighing around 150lbs, possibly an athlete. At some point in his life, he’d had his appendix removed. The man also had two scars on one of his shoulders.
"We have sent dental X-rays of both victims and complete information about the case to the American Dental association. They will be printing the information and X-rays in their journal which goes out to about 100,000 dentists nationwide and we hope that a dentist somewhere will recognize his work and be able to give us the name for one or both victims. Until we get them identified, our investigation into the murder is completely stalled" Sheriff Byrd Parnell said in an article titled 2 bodies, 1000 leads, and nowhere published in The Item, 10 September 1976.
Investigators were hopeful they would be able to identify John Doe using his dental X-rays, on account of the extensive dental work he’d had done, unfortunately that would not be the case.
John Doe was dressed in a red Coors light t-shirt paired with a pair of blue stonewash Levi’s jeans. A box of matches tucked into one of his pockets indicated that he and his travel companion had most probably came to Sumter County through the Midwest, possibly Arizona or Idaho. Another significant clue found on the body was a 14-karat gold ring, set with a grey Linde-star sapphire stone, with an engraving that read: JPF. The initials were most likely John Doe’s name, frustratingly, they did not help in identifying him. Overtime he acquired the nickname Jacques.
Investigators determined the man was well-off.
John Doe’s female acquaintance appeared to be slightly younger. She was estimated to be around18-25 years old. She too was Caucasian, slim with dark hair and olive skin. Although they bore a couple of similarities, they were not related. Her eyes were light, possibly hazel or grey, she was pretty with several distinguishing moles on her face and legs.
Jane Doe was found clad in short denim shorts, a white shirt over a pink halter top and pink strapped sandals.
Her body was processed in the same way as John Doe. Clear photographs were taken along with fingerprints, dentals, and DNA. Despite all the information collected, nobody ever came forward to identify her.
Th morning the pair were discovered, another individual had spotted them on the dirt road. This individual, often described in reports as a local hermit who lived out in the woods, would claim that he saw the young man and woman getting out of a car early that morning. It is speculated that their vehicle was taken from them and that they were shot soon after.
There were a couple of suspects over the years, one being serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. Lucas was notorious for confessing to crimes he did not commit. He claimed to be in the area at the time of the double homicide and was active from the sixties up until the early eighties. He could provide no details about the case that lead police to believe he had any involvement, and his confession is suspected to be just another fabrication.
Another man was suspected a year after the bodies were found. The man, who lived in South Carolina owned a similar firearm, but police were not able to collect evidence enough to charge him with the murders. He died several years later.
In the summer of 2019 the DNA Doe Network, a volunteer run non-profit organisation that aids in giving the unidentified back their names using forensic genealogy, took on the case of the Sumpter County Does. The DNA Doe Network have worked on and identified around 30 Does since 2017, including the case of Lyle Stevik, an unknown man who checked into a hotel in Amanda Park, Washington, under an alias to commit suicide in 2001, and the Buckskin girl, a young woman who was found murdered in a ditch in Troy, Ohio in 1981.
Through donations, the DNA Doe Network was able to raise enough money to create DNA profiles for the Sumter County Does in late 2020. By January 2021 they were able to reveal the identities of the homicide victims to the public.
John Doe was identified as James Freund. Jane Doe was identified as Pamela Buckley.
Ancestry records reveal James Paul Freund was born September 16, 1946. He resided in Fitchburg, Worcester, Massachusetts and graduated McCaskey high school in Lancaster, PA in 1964.
Pamela Mae Buckley was born December 16, 1951 in Redwood county, Minnesota.
Relatives of both Freund and Buckley said they were reported missing in 1975. Since the identification of the Sumpter County Does police announced they have a list of potential suspects they intent to question, however they believe it may have been a one-off incident.