On an unseasonably warm April evening in 2001, the headless body of a tiny girl was found discarded in a makeshift dump site in the woods on the southeast side of Kansas City, Missouri.
One long night turned into four long years for Sgt. David Bernard and the Kansas City Police Department’s 1020 Squad. They followed 1,500 leads, had a replica of the child’s head sculpted from her skull, and ultimately conducted the single most extensive area canvass in the KCPD's history.
Erica Michelle Marie Green, aka “Precious Doe,” captured the hearts of not only the dedicated detectives who fought tirelessly to identify her and her killer but of an entire community.
PRECIOUS FEW CLUES is a candid and touching account of the painful impact that this brutal murder had on Sgt. Bernard, his family, and the KCPD’s 1020 squad. It chronicles the all too frequent story of child abuse, failed social services, a flawed court system, and battered women who sacrificed their own children to shield their abusive lovers, echoing the same preposterous explanations of “…but I love him.”
From the Book:
It was then that Bernard called in a team of specialized canine handlers. Using human remains detection dogs in that environment would be one of the quickest and best approaches to locating any evidence, most significantly the child’s decapitated head. The Missouri Search and Rescue group, an all-volunteer, non-profit dog/handler unit, responded to the scene. These canine teams hold certifications that meet or exceed the Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthogonal Detector Guidelines (SWGDOG) recommended guidelines, so their assistance is invaluable to investigators. It was dense, rugged terrain to navigate, especially in the dark of night, but the teams searched anyway. The handlers tied luminous chemical sticks to the dogs’ collars to keep them in sight, and together they searched the stifling, thick woods ripe with garbage and decay. The K9 handlers said it was the roughest brush they had ever searched. Human scents are, in a way, like liquids in that they “flow” to low-lying areas and “pool” into a vapor that lingers. Cadaver dogs are sent to the most likely places where this would occur, tracking the scent both on the ground and in the air. Because of their specialized training, cadaver dogs can identify crime scenes even if the body has since been moved; unfortunately, this time, the area would prove to be only a repository for the child’s remains and not the scene of the crime. Because the initial search didn’t reveal anything, the group disbanded with the plan to recheck the area in daylight.
Now mMidnight, the search was called off because the darkness worked against them. The plan was that the search teams would all re-group at the church at 7:00 a.m. It would not be the usual Sunday gathering one comes to expect in a church parking lot. There would be no affirmations from the “Amen pew” in this investigation for four long years. Yet, despite the late hour, officers could hear children laughing and playing in the distance. Was there a connection between this tiny victim and those whose voices echoed in the night?
Because this was not an easily accessible or well-known area, Sgt. Bernard thought the child was most likely local and that a missing child would be reported sooner or later. Someone would call the police in search of a little girl lost. Who wouldn’t report a missing child? She was young, and statistics show that the younger the victim, the closer the killer is to the family— - a parent, boyfriend, or immediate family member. Young children are usually protected,, and stranger killings are uncommon. Best guess, given the level of brutality, one could assume either the child's father or the mother's boyfriend was the suspect. A female rarely resorts to that level of mutilation, especially a child. Surely someone, somewhere, knew something and would come forward. As soon as the child was identified and detectives determined who had care and control of her at the time of death, the case would quickly be solved, or so it was thought. Time proved it wrong.
About the Author
A former police sergeant, Marla Bernard is a passionate victim’s rights advocate, author, and public speaker. She is the author of BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD: The True Story of The Abduction And Murder of Ann Harrison.
She received her Master of Arts with honors from Baker University. She served as adjunct faculty for a national university where she has written several criminal justice courses and has been a contributor to national law enforcement publications.
She and her husband were recently filmed for an upcoming true crime series in the United Kingdom for an episode based on the Precious Doe murder case.
Her work has been published in two volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She is currently writing her third book, documenting the serial murders of Kansas City women and their alleged killer.
Marla and her husband retired Sgt. David Bernard, reside in the Midwest near the loves of their lives – their two children and three grandchildren.