Nassau County investigators are looking into the possibility that skeletal remains found near Bryceville last weekend could be those of Jackie Markham, a Callahan mother and grandmother who went missing on Dec. 14, 2000.
Nassau County Sheriff Tommy Seagraves said experts with the Jacksonville Medical Examiner's Office and an anthropology expert are "leaning toward (the remains being) female and Caucasian."
Detectives are working the case as a homicide, Seagraves said. But he cautioned that no positive identification of the bones has been made and a cause of death has not yet been determined.
Seagraves said in addition to "countless" Caucasian women reported missing nationwide, there's "a girl missing from Clay County, females missing from Duval, from Broward County."
"It could be anybody, but it could be (Markham)," Seagraves said Thursday morning. "I actually have talked to the Markham family, and of course the missing person from that general area is Jackie Markham, and I'd love to see this lead to some more steps to solving this case for the family ... but even if not, it's still good to re-release the story (of Markham's disappearance) and keep it in the public eye."
Markham would have turned 60 this year; family members have long assumed she is dead, but the uncertainty is torturous for her children.
"She has just enough hope (that her mother is still alive) to make her life miserable," Markham's son-in-law Todd Myrick said of his wife Melissa, Markham's daughter, in a 2006 interview. "Sometimes there will be that one second, in an airport or something, where she sees someone with the same hair or something and thinks, 'Maybe,' but it's never her."
And, Seagraves is quick to caution, this may not be her. With no positive DNA identification, no cause of death ruling, no word yet on how long the remains have been where they were found or when this person may have died, Seagraves said at this point the only thing linking the remains to Markham is the educated guess by experts that the bones are from a white female along with the fact they were discovered on the West Side of Nassau County, in the general area where Markham went missing.
The bones, including a human skull, were discovered at a hunt club in Bryceville April 10 and do show some indication that the death was a homicide, but Seagraves declined to confirm that the indications include a possible bullet hole in the skull.
"The experts need to do some X-raying, at this point, we're looking for everything," Seagraves said. "They're also hoping to be able to get DNA out of the teeth ... they're going to send a description and the measurements of the skull itself, and there's a computer system that's able to maybe reconstruct a face ... they're trying to get an estimate of the height of the person."
Because Seagraves is familiar with the Markham case, and with Markham's family, he admits he hopes the remains are those of Markham, so detectives can go from there to solving the case, and the family can have some closure. The case was re-opened by the sheriff's office in 2006.
Markham disappeared the day before a planned trip to visit her children and her grandson for an early Christmas in December 2000. Her Christmas tree was found half-decorated and covered in cobwebs when her children went to her home to collect her personal items in April 2001, and since her disappearance, her car, her bank account, her cell phone, her name, her Social Security number and her legal name have never been used.
Her family had her declared legally dead so they could sell her Callahan home. Still, Seagraves knows they are hoping for some answers.
"Right now, they don't have anything, any answers," he said. "All they have is memories."