The term “Jane Doe” is one that is commonly known thanks to crime dramas and news reports, but sometimes Jane Does get other names too. Barbara Ann Taylor, who was found thirty years prior to being identified, was one of those victims. In Barbara’s case, she was commonly known as “Tent Girl” because of the state her body was in. Barbara was discovered along a highway wrapped in a tarp that was comparable to what you would use for a tent. For thirty long years, she was known exclusively by this tragic title.
Barbara was twenty-four years old when she disappeared completely. This was shortly after the birth of her first child, a daughter who had not yet reached her first birthday. But, what would make a young mother leave her child behind and disappear without a trace?
The reality is that to this day no one knows for certain what happened to make Barbara disappear. The circumstances are suspicious in their own right, but nothing was ever confirmed. Barbara’s husband was the one to alert her family to her disappearance. He reached out to her family to inform them that she had run off with another man and abandoned her child. Since he had accused her of fleeing the area with a new lover, her husband never filed a police report.
Despite the husband’s insistence that she had left with another man, the family didn’t buy it. In fact, they never seemed to truly consider this as an option at all and instead sided with the police who believed that her husband was the most likely suspect. Unfortunately, in the sixties, there was only so much that the police department could do. There was no body around to prove that Barbara had been killed.
Discovering Tent Girl
One day in 1968, Wilbur Riddle was out searching for materials near the highway a ways away from where Barbara had gone missing. By this point, Barbara had been missing for about a year and the case had gone cold. When Riddle noticed that there was a decomposing body wrapped up in a tarp, he notified police immediately.
Unfortunately, police didn’t have any recent reports for a missing woman. They had nothing to look for and no way to actually identify Barbara’s body. The police released descriptions to the public, but no one came forward. Barbara was very badly decomposed, making it difficult for any real identifications to be made. However, this did not stop police from releasing what descriptors they could come up with. To add to the confusion, they estimated her as being much younger than she actually was due to her petite size. Barbara was barely more than five feet tall, causing police to think she was quite young. Ultimately, police were unable to determine who the victim was and her case went cold for a full thirty years.
If you’re wondering how Barbara could be identified thirty years later, the answer lies within the same kind of work that we do for our podcast. Todd Matthews, the son-in-law of Wilbur Riddle, developed an interest in the Tent Girl case and began to conduct quite a bit of research. Driven by the desire to know what happened, he began to carry out his own investigation, which yielded tremendous results.
After decades of Barbara missing, Todd was able to reach out to her family and connect with one of her sisters. They compared descriptions and what they knew about the cases. Her family was convinced that their missing relative had finally been found. By working with police and using familial DNA, the family was able to determine without a doubt that Tent Girl was, in fact, their beloved Barbara.
No Justice For Barbara
To this day, Barbara’s family maintains the belief that she was murdered by her husband. Unfortunately, this avenue could not be confirmed because he died roughly a decade before she was identified. This did not stop her family from putting Barbara’s maiden name on her gravestone to avoid her being affiliated with her potential killer any longer.
It will never be known what actually happened to Barbara, but it is still nice for the family to have their closure after all this time. Unfortunately, we will never learn if Barbara was killed by her husband or betrayed by a potential lover in a tryst gone wrong. Barbara was known as a vibrant and happy young woman, but was lost too soon. Now, her family and the daughter that she left behind will be trusted to carry on her legacy.