Woman Helped Police Find Murderer Who Killed Her Mom in 1980 While Searching for Real Parents

Lois Oladejo
Apr 30, 2021
12:50 P.M.

A woman in search of her biological parents helped authorities solve a 40-year mystery, identifying a man buried with her mom in a shallow grave.


A Virginia woman named Christine Marie Salley always wanted to find her biological parents. Hence, she hired a private investigator in 2018 to help in her quest.

The P.I. discovered adoption paperwork with details about Salley's biological mom, Pamela Diane Duffey. The investigator also submitted his client's DNA to GEDmatch, a public DNA database.

A woman wearing a gray sweater and looking sad. | Photo: Pexels

A woman wearing a gray sweater and looking sad. | Photo: Pexels


Last December, GEDmatch discovered a parent-child link between Salley and the DNA sample of a woman buried in a shallow desert grave in Ludlow, California, in November 1980. Investigators had uploaded the woman's DNA sample in a bid to identify her.

An archaeologist discovered the shallow grave with the woman's body and that of another man. They were homicide victims, with autopsies indicating they died due to gunshot wounds and blunt force trauma.

However, investigators were frustrated as the man and woman were naked and had nothing identifying them at the gravesite. Hence, they had no idea who they were.

An image of DNA under a microscope. | Photo: Pixabay

An image of DNA under a microscope. | Photo: Pixabay


When San Bernardino County investigators learned about Salley's DNA match with the woman, they contacted her, and she revealed her biological mother's name.

She also gave them another DNA sample analyzed and confirmed to match the woman in the grave. They identified the woman as Salley's mom, Duffey, who was 21 years old when she died.

The test results also confirmed that Lane, who was 20 when he died, was the male victim.

A woman looking through a microscope. | Photo: Pixabay

A woman looking through a microscope. | Photo: Pixabay


Investigators asked Sally if she knew anything about the man with her mother. She revealed her mother was associated with a man known as "Digger Lane" before going missing.

She also said she knew Digger Lane spent time in a Virginia prison and planned to travel across the United States with her mom after his release from prison.

With this information, investigators swung into action, trying to identify the man. They could not find any information about a "Digger Lane" but researched the approximate release date of a man named Lane.


They found the name William Everette Lane, whose arrest report gave a home address in Jacksonville, Florida. Investigators used that to track down various members of the Lane family, including his biological mother.

She provided the DNA that was sent to the California Department of Justice for testing. The test results also confirmed that Lane, who was 20 when he died, was the male victim buried in the grave.

In a report narrating the investigation and findings, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office revealed the suspect in Lane and Duffey's killings, Howard Neal, was long on law enforcement's radar.

A photo of police cars. | Photo: Shutterstock

A photo of police cars. | Photo: Shutterstock


Neal, now 68, resided in Ludlow at the time of the murders, but he moved out with his wife and younger daughter shortly after. He took them to Mississippi, where he killed his brother and raped and killed his niece, 13, and her friend, 12.

The victims were discovered in February 1981 while Neal was convicted of his crimes and sentenced to death a year after. Investigators repeatedly tried to interview Neal about the Ludlow murders but did not succeed until 2017.

When they did, he could not remember anything about the male victim but told investigators he picked Lane and Duffey while they were hitchhiking on the freeway.

Two police officers walking down the road | Photo: Pexels

Two police officers walking down the road | Photo: Pexels

He took them to his house but got involved in an argument with the man. The argument started after Neal tried to make physical advances at Duffey.


Neal told investigators the argument was very intense that he felt Lane could kill him if he did not kill him first. He then shot him and continued his advances at Duffey, who he sexually assaulted before killing.

He took their bodies to an isolated desert area south of Highway 66. There, he dug a shallow grave and dumped their bodies inside.

A photo of a police officer writing a ticket for a driver who broke the law. | Photo: Shutterstock

A photo of a police officer writing a ticket for a driver who broke the law. | Photo: Shutterstock


After eight years of Neal's death sentencing, the Mississippi Court of Appeals commuted his death sentence to three life terms, which he continues to serve. However, he has not been charged in the Ludlow killings.

The victims' identification shows how DNA technology can help in solving mysteries and crime cases. In 2018, the Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, was caught after a lengthy process of comparing crime-scene DNA to genetic information on GEDmatch.

Please fill in your e-mail so we can share with you our top stories!
By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy
Related posts

Woman Searches for Mom Years after She Left Her at the Hospital, Finds Siblings Who Were Also Deserted by Her

May 08, 2022

Devoted Dad-Of-Three Finds Out He's Always Been Infertile, Decides to Take a DNA Test

May 10, 2022

Mom Tells Daughter She Had an Affair and Doesn't Know Who Her Dad Is

April 13, 2022

Man Abandoned as a Baby in a Cardboard Box Discovers His Dad Was Living Just 20 Minutes Away

March 31, 2022

Adoptee Discovers She Was Kidnapped and Finds Her Mother Who Can't Recognize Her after 37 Years

April 10, 2022

Woman Believed to Be Dead for 20 Years Appears at Her Son’s Funeral – Story of the Day

May 04, 2022

Son Is Reunited with Mom 21 Years after Being Kidnapped: 'She Had Never Given Up'

March 17, 2022

Parents Take Daughter's Blood Test before Lifesaving Surgery, Discover She's Not Their Child

May 02, 2022

Young Woman Adopts an Orphan Boy and Finds Out He Is Her Biological Brother – Story of the Day

March 22, 2022

Widower Left with 4-Month-Old Son Takes DNA Test, Discovers the Baby Belongs to Another Man

March 16, 2022

Man Takes DNA Test That Reveals He Isn’t His Son’s Dad, Learns His Wife Isn’t His Mom as Well — Story of the Day

March 02, 2022

Little Boys Told Their Mother Died Take a DNA Test 46 Years Later to Find Out If It's True

April 05, 2022

42 Years after Being Adopted, Man Who Never Knew His Bio-Family Took a DNA Test to Find Them

February 02, 2022

From Start of Pregnancy, Man Doubted Baby’s Paternity — Later Refuses to Sign Birth Certificate

March 01, 2022