THE INVESTIGATORS: The skeleton on Rosedale Road - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

THE INVESTIGATORS: The skeleton on Rosedale Road

Brenda Banks (Source: Family) Brenda Banks (Source: Family)
Rosedale Road Rosedale Road
PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) -

On Dec. 1, 1986, the skeleton of an unknown woman was found in a rural area of West Baton Rouge Parish. Just this year, she was finally identified, and some believe she was the victim of a notorious serial killer, though police haven't named any suspects.

Detectives with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, along with anthropologists from LSU, located the bones in a wooded area off of Rosedale Road, a couple miles west of La. 415. They had been searching the area after two hunters found a skull there a few days earlier.

Some of her bones were found scattered several yards away, and a red halter top belonging to the victim was located about 50 yards from the skull, detectives said at the time.

Authorities estimated the woman had died between three and six months prior to her body being found.

No obvious signs of death were apparent at that time, and there were little clues as to the woman’s identity. 

Detectives told reporters that the sheriff’s office had no reports of missing persons, according to a newspaper report that day. They did not know at the time that 22-year-old Brenda Banks had been reported missing a few months earlier in another jurisdiction — East Baton Rouge Parish. 

The skeleton remained in the morgue, unidentified for more than 30 years.

THE IDENTIFICATION

Linda Banks Dellihue and her twin sister, Brenda Banks, were the youngest of 17 kids. Linda recalled the last time she last saw her twin three decades ago.

“She was working with my mom,” Linda said. “My mom went to pick her up one morning, and she wasn’t there.”

Brenda had been living on Columbus Dunn Drive in Baton Rouge at that time. The family reported her missing that day, Sept. 10, 1986.

Little did they know, Brenda was already dead and her skeletal remains lay in a patch of woods just across the river. 

Though authorities could determine the remains were those of a black woman in her early 20s, the connection was never made.

Brenda had two sons. Willie, her youngest, was just 4 at the time of his mother’s disappearance. And as the years passed, he became more and more curious about what happened to her.

“My daughter brought it up to me one day,” Willie said. “She said, ‘Dad, what does grandma look like?’ I said, ‘If I had a picture, I'd show you she looks just like you.’”

So, earlier this year, Willie and Linda submitted samples of their DNA to a national database. The LSU FACES lab had also entered DNA from the skeleton years ago. 

On April 20, Willie got a phone call from the testing facility. A match was confirmed.

“My heart dropped,” Willie said. “At that moment I thought she was still alive.  Our hope was that she was still alive. When he gave me that news it crushed me, it broke my heart. I had been looking for her since I was 4 years old.”

Yancy Guerin, the chief deputy coroner in West Baton Rouge Parish, also remembers getting that phone call.

“I actually pulled over on the side of the road and said, ‘Hey, now we have something we can work towards,’” Guerin said.

HOMICIDE

“We consider this a homicide,” Guerin said. “I don't think she just wandered out here in this wooded area by herself and died one night.”

The Banks case has some unusual similarities to the murder of Joyce Williams in 1999. Williams was one of eight victims claimed by convicted serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis.

Gillis killed Williams in a similar desolate area off Rosedale Road, just a half-mile from where Brenda’s remains were found a decade earlier.

Guerin said the two women shared similar appearances and lifestyles, but the years apart are much further. Brenda was killed eight years before Gillis claimed his first known victim, 81-year-old Ann Bryan in March 1994.

Still, it’s a theory her sister believes.

Linda said a neighbor told her she last saw Brenda leaving her home on Quida Mae Drive in a white truck driven by a white male.

Brenda’s son, however, has other suspicions.

A DANGEROUS HOME

“My aunt feels that the serial killer killed my mom,” Willie said. “I feel it was more of the family. It was more of a cover-up thing.”

Willie said there was abuse within the family going on for years and his mother was a victim.

When his mom tried to get help, he said, other family members had her committed to a mental institution.

“When she was trying to get help, to speak out about it, they put her in a mental institution, said she was crazy,” he said. “They didn't want that to come out.”

Whenever he would ask his older relatives questions about his mother, Willie said, he would never get a straight answer.

“Nobody wanted to tell me anything,” he said. “It was a hush-hush thing. It wasn't until I took the DNA test that everybody started speaking out about it.”

Willie, now in his 30s, grew fearful of some of his extended family and eventually moved out of state.

“If I come back down there this time after all of this, I don't think I would make it out,” he said. “And I'm just being honest.”

Now with a homicide investigation just beginning after 30 years, WBRSO detectives have a tough case to crack.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly