Chief Connie Rowe announced during a Monday afternoon press conference that a skull was discovered Sunday morning by a man who is renting a home in the South Lowell Subdivision, which is located just inside the Jasper City limits.
Rowe said the residence where the skull was found is of interest because of a missing persons report filed in November 2005. Henry Cobb reported the disappearance of his 102-year-old mother, Mary Ellen Stotts Cobb, and his 83-year-old sister, Wynona Jean Delvecchio.
“The home where the skull was discovered was their last known residence, and their belongings were still there at the time of the report,” Rowe said.
Rowe said the two women had been in a nursing home but had reportedly been checked out by a neighbor. There were conflicting reports as to where the two women went beyond that because some documents implied that they were in West Virginia.
“The FBI became involved in the case, which was initially started not by the family, but by a railroad investigator who was trying to determine if Mrs. Cobb was still receiving a pension check that she had been receiving for a long period of time,” Rowe said. “We are very interested in reopening this case and seeing if indeed there is a connection between the partial skull that was found and the disappearance of these two women.”
The investigation conducted by the railroad began in 2002, when an railroad investigator began questioning Mrs. Cobb’s health. Henry Cobb talked with the Daily Mountain Eagle in 2003 and again in 2006, and said that no one had seen or heard from his mother and sister since February 2002.
During Monday’s press conference, Jasper Police Detective Sgt. Jimmie Vann said he had talked with the family Monday and learned that Henry Cobb passed away four years ago without learning the mystery behind the disappearance of his mother and sister.
“We have spoken with his wife and grandson, and they are very intent on the closure of this case. It will not only bring closure to the family, but to us, as a department, as well,” Vann said.
Vann said the last known person to have seen the missing women was reportedly Wanda Kiser, a neighbor who lived across the street from Delvecchio at the time the two women are believed to have disappeared. Kiser was charged and sentenced to three years probation in connection with the investigation conducted by the railroad and the Federal Bureau of Investigation between 2003 and 2006.
“She is now a person-of-interest in our cold case investigation,” Vann said.
Rowe said regardless of whether the department is able to substantiate a connection between the skull and the missing elderly women, the department is going to pursue this cold case in an effort to bring some form of closure to the case for the Cobb family.
Rowe said the skull, which was discovered 10 feet from the door of the crawl space of the home, will be sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Huntsville for evaluation.
She added that only the skull has been recovered so far. It is missing the lower jaw, and the department is interested in the extraction of DNA if possible.
The department has also contacted the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and is trying to secure a piece of equipment that has earth-penetrating sonar in an effort to see if anything is visible below the surface.
Rowe said she has also contacted a cadaver dog team out of Huntsville to revisit the area, which was worked by cadaver dogs several years ago.
“The surface in the crawl space consists of very, very, hard-packed dirt, and we did as little as we could to disturb what may very well at some point become a crime scene,” Rowe said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Sgt. Jimmie Vann at 205-221-6790.