Detective Larry Ellerman arrived on the scene with Detective Brown. They had been riding past the area when White flagged them down. The crowd had grown, and the body had been covered with a sheet. He had seen many crime scenes, but this one was a bit unusual. He stared at the body as he and Brown pumped each other for details.
"What do we have here?" Ellerman asked.
"It looks like we have an unidentified black female who was found at the rear of that house at 4109 Beale Street," answered Brown in a sterile, routine manner.
"Only Mr. White was there. He was here to do some painting when he found the body. He's the one who flagged us down. Besides that, he doesn't seem to know anything else," said Brown.
Ellerman raised the sheet and peered into the woman's face. Emotionless, he continued.
"How long do you think she's been here?"
"It looks like it's been several hours," said Brown.
"You found her just like this?" Ellerman called out to White. White nodded his head, speechless, as Ellerman walked around the body, looking at the clothing, the board, and what appeared to be a bloody paper towel.
"What's this?" Ellerman asked, touching it with the edge of a pencil.
"It looks like a paper towel. It was stuck in her, you know, like a Kotex or something," Brown answered.
"Let me through! Let me through!" came a shout from the crowd. There was a man pushing his way through a crowd of onlookers.
"Sir, you can't enter this area; this is a crime scene," said an officer.
"I know that, but that might be my sister," said the man, slightly breathless.
"Who are you?" asked Ellerman.
"My name is Harold Harris."
"What makes you think this might be your sister?" asked Ellerman, standing between Harris and the body.
"We've been looking for her all night. She didn't come home. The last time we saw her, she was walking down the street last night, right along this area. We've been looking everywhere for her."
Ellerman took Harris over to the body and raised the sheet high enough for him to see but low enough to hide it from the prying eyes of onlookers. Harris immediately broke into tears that rolled down his face.
"Is this your sister?" asked Ellerman.
"Yeah, that's her," said Harris, barely able to compose himself. By then, the crowd had sensed that it was Harold's sister; they knew her, and the word passed quickly through the crowd as moans of Oh, my God" and "Lord, have mercy came from the crowd.
"I'm sorry about this, Mr. Harris," said Ellerman, "but what was your sister's name?"
"Her name is Vonda Lanell Harris."