Decades after they were murdered, two victims of two separate homicides in Volusia County, Florida, have been identified thanks to DNA matches.
The cases of Howard “Kip” Evans, who was found dead in 1986, and Doris Regina Chavers, who was last seen alive in 1989, are no longer listed as Jane Doe and John Doe.
A forensic artist with the University of South Florida provided the Sheriff’s Office a facial reconstruction of the victim in the hopes someone might recognize him. In 2020, thanks to DNA analysis, John Doe 1986 was finally identified as Howard “Kip” Evans.
Evans’ skeletal remains were discovered Jan. 18, 1986, off Pump House Road near Jones Island Road in the Ormond Beach area. His remains had been there for an undetermined amount of time. Forensic examination of the skeleton revealed violent trauma, and the death was determined to be a homicide.
Although various leads and tips were pursued throughout the years, the victim was unable to be identified, and the case went cold as “John Doe 1986.”
Between 2006 and 2011, DNA was obtained from the skeletal remains and sent to several laboratories for comparison to DNA in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), but there were no matches.
In 2014, facial reconstruction models were generated through the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science at the University of South Florida.
In 2019, the Major Case Unit received information regarding social media posts generated in a Missing Persons group. The posts advised that a woman’s son, Howard Evans, had been missing since 1984 and was last known to be in Volusia County. Evans was about 29 years old at the time he went missing.
It was determined that no formal missing person’s report was ever generated for Evans. Due to Evans being missing for 6 years, the family had him legally declared deceased in 1990. As the follow-up investigation continued, detectives obtained a DNA sample from Evans’ mother, who resided in South Carolina.
DNA analysis was performed by the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) and the FBI. This month, an association was made between the family reference DNA obtained from the mother and the human remains known as John Doe 1986. Based on this association, a positive identification was made confirming that the human remains were that of Howard Evans..
Evans’ mother was notified that her son, who she last had contact with nearly 36 years ago, had been located.
In another cold case, Jane Doe 1991 can finally be recognized by her name, Doris Regina Chavers.
Chavers was 32 years old when she was last seen alive at her mother’s home in Sanford, in August 1989. She was reported missing the following year, on Aug. 1, 1990, to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
On Aug. 19, 1991, Volusia sheriff’s deputies responded to a report from two fishermen who found skeletal remains in a heavily wooded area off the 400 block of Enterprise Osteen Road in Osteen. Due to the condition of the remains, identification was not possible. At that time, DNA technology was not what it is today.
In September 1991, an autopsy determined that the remains were of a female, potentially in her 30s or 40s, and that she had died from violent trauma. Jane Doe 1991’s death was subsequently ruled a homicide.
As the death investigation progressed, detectives searched databases at their disposal for any and all means to identify the victim. Detectives entered the case into an FBI database in an effort to identify Jane Doe and to generate possible leads. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful, and the case went cold.
In August 2018, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office conducted further investigation into the Chavers missing person case. Seminole sheriff’s detectives were able to track down Chavers’ biological daughter and obtain a familial DNA reference sample. That DNA sample was subsequently sent to UNTCHI.
On Jan. 21 of this year, both Volusia and Seminole detectives received a report from UNTCHI that the familial DNA sample collected from Chavers’ biological daughter was a match to the skeletal remains found in Volusia County in 1991.
After receiving the report, Volusia detectives contacted Chavers’ daughter and delivered the news. Upon learning her mother had been located, she was relieved to finally get some sense of closure; she said she always felt that something terrible must have happened, and that her mother would have never just abandoned her.
The separate investigations into the homicides of Howard Evans and Doris Chavers are continuing, and anyone with information about either case is encouraged to contact the Volusia Sheriff’s Office Major Case Unit (386) 254-1537.
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