Man accused of murdering ‘Lavender Doe’, Felicia Pearson has trial date set

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GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KETK) The man accused of murdering two women in Gregg County will face a jury next July.

Joseph Wayne Burnette, 42, of Longview, is accused of murdering Felisha Pearson and a woman known only as “Lavender Doe” for more than a decade.

Both cases have been set for July 20th in the 188th District Court in Longview.

FELISHA PEARSON CASE

Felisha Pearson was reported missing by her mother on July 20. She had last been seen on July 14, and authorities believed she might be in danger.

They were right.

Pearson’s body was found in the woods off West Birdsong Street in Longview last Tuesday, July 24.

On that same day, the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office announced it was looking for Burnette, 41, who had failed to register as a sex offender.

Burnette had been convicted of indecent exposure.

A warrant for his arrest was issued out of Gregg County July 25. He was arrested that same day in Upshur County and transferred Thursday to the Gregg County Jail, where he is being held on a $500,000 bond.

The warrant says Pearson was living in a local hotel with Burnette before her disappearance, and lived together at a residence.

After leaving that rented property, they began staying at the Contessa Inn off of State Highway 31.

According to records, Burnette was convicted of vehicle burglary in 1994 and sexual assault in 1996.

He was also a suspect in a 2006 unsolved murder case.

LAVENDER DOE CASE

It was an unsolved murder mystery for 12 years, finally solved IN February 2019, by a non-profit that few East Texans had ever heard about, until now.

More than a decade after “Lavender Doe’s” body was found in a Kilgore oil-lease, Margaret Press and Colleen Fitzpatrick decided to do something a little different.

They wanted to use direct to consumer DNA testing to identify Jane and John Doe’s— unidentifed victims found across the country, including here in texas, so they founded the DNA Doe Project.

“At that time, realize this was well before the Golden State Killer came on the scene, so approaching law enforcement agencies with some idea they didn’t understand, that we were interested in,” said Fitzpatrick. “We had to pick the right agencies that were open to that.”

The process is the same one that helped nab the infamous Golden State Killer in 2018— who murdered at least 13 people over a 10 year period.

They first extract DNA from the remains. Then they try to match the “Doe” to potential family members by uploading the results to GEDmatch.com. Which is a lesser known site that does the same type of work as 23 and Me and Ancestry.com.

“That database allows us to look for other people that share some DNA with our unidentified person, if they share enough DNA that they could be a third cousin or a fourth cousin, then we have all of our volunteers work on creating family trees for those people to figure out how they relate to each other, how those lines may intersect in ways that would point us to the family of the Doe,” said Press.

It was the technology that gave Dana Lynn Dodd her name back, known in East Texas for past 12 years as Lavender Doe.”On October 29, 2006 on an oil-lease off of Fritz Swanson Road, North of Texas 31, which is North of Kilgore discovered a woman’s body, that body has repeatedly been referred to and is now identified as Lavender Doe,” said Sheriff Maxey Cerliano with the Gregg County Sheriff’s Department at a press conference in 2018.

Dana Lynn Dodd was 21-years-old when she got into a stranger’s car at a Walmart in Longview. Dodd’s killer was Joseph Wayne Burnett, who confessed to her murder in 2018, but was unable to offer any valuable information to authorities about who she was.

The DNA Doe project was already working on identifying Lavender Doe at that time. And they did, with the Gregg County Sheriff’s Department announcing her identity less than a week ago.

“We have been told there’s no such thing as closure and I believe that. We don’t bring closure, we bring information, we bring an end to a story, so that all the energy the person has been using to wonder about their loved one, now they can let go of it and they can go on with their lives.”

-Colleen Fitzpatrick

Dana Lynn Dodd is the tenth murder victim identified by the DNA Doe Project. They are now working to solve 11 more mysteries and they are receiving more requests for help every day.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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