Woman searches for mother's killer in 40-year-old cold case murder

Posted at 10:54 PM, Apr 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-07 14:42:58-04

"It was difficult because no one understood that I just wanted help trying to find my mom," said Carlita Ransom who has spent years searching for her mother, Darlene McKenzie.

Darlene went missing when she was just 15 years old. Carlita was a baby at that time. 

It was 1975 and Darlene, who gave birth to Carlita when she was just 14, seemingly vanished in early June of that year from the home of her mother and step-father and was never heard from again.

"I know I went out and looked," said Doris Leverette, Darlene's mother, who can't be sure if she ever filed a missing person report in 1975.

For whatever reason, no report was ever found or filed,  and that left Farmington Hills Police wondering who the young African American woman was whose body was found on a hot day in June of that year.

"They did not have a file of it being reported. So, because of that, the police departments wouldn't have connected it," said Farmington Hills Detective Chad Double. "It did run on the news back then, but it wouldn't be like now with social media."

Police in Detroit, where the young mother's family lived, say during Carlita's search for her mother, they were also unable to find a missing person report.

So, for over 40 years, Darlene's body rested at a cemetery in Pontiac as a Jane Doe.

Then, in 2014, during Det. Double's quest to identify their Jane Doe, he sent an old vial of blood to Michigan State Police for DNA analysis.

A year later, without even knowing of the case in Farmington Hills, Detroit Police Sergeant Shannon Jones set out to help Carlita find her mom and had Carlita and her grandmother give DNA samples to see if there was a match anywhere.

And in the fall of 2016, the young woman whose body had been buried as a Jane Doe finally had a name. It was Darlene McKenzie.

Now, begins Carlita's search to find her mother's killer.

"Being a future mortician and seeing death everyday still doesn't prepare me for what happened to my mom," said Carlita who is now trying to raise enough money to get her mother the headstone she's never had.

"I do believe justice will happen for my mother Darlene," said Carlita. "Even if I had to look until I took my last breath, no matter what I did, I was not going to stop looking until I found my mother."

If you have any information on what may have happened to Darlene McKenzie in 1975, you're urged to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP or Farmington Hills Police.