January 19th, 2023 by Leah Owens
On January 19th, 2023, the Opelika Police Department announced breaking updates in the unsolved homicide of Opelika’s Baby Jane Doe–a case we covered in our December 19th, 2022 episode (Unsolved Disappearance: Andrea Knabel + Unsolved Homicide: Opelika Jane Doe). We have prepared a breaking update episode on Amore’s case, which will air on podcast platforms on January 20th, 2023. Meanwhile, here are the essentials of what we learned from today’s press conference.
Opelika’s Baby Jane Doe has been identified as Amore Wiggins, thanks to the hard work of the Opelika Police Department–especially Sgt. Alfred White–, the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Othram Labs, Astrea Labs, the Firebird Forensics Group, Coroner Bill Harris, geneologist Barbara Rae-Ventner and a variety of other professionals, law enforcement agencies and other groups.
Amore was born on January 1st, 2006, to her teenaged mother, Sherry Wiggins, of Norfolk, VA. Her father was then 32-year-old Lamar Vickerstaff Jr, a sailor in the US Navy then stationed in Norfolk. A few months after Amore was born, Lamar Vickerstaff married his fiancée–a woman named Ruth. In 2009, when Amore was a toddler, Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff successfully pursued custody of her in a Virginia court. Her mother, Sherry, was not even granted visitation rights.
For 14 years, Sherry made steady child support payments to the Vickerstaffs, all while attempting to regain custody of the daughter she had not been allowed to see since she was deprived of custody. She had no way of knowing that her daughter had been murdered, or even that she was missing.
After being removed from her mother’s custody, Amore suffered horrific physical abuse, the evidence of which was later found written on her mostly-skeletal remains in the form of 15+ fractures (in various states of healing) to her skull, arms, legs, shoulders and ribs. In 2012, her remains were discovered near a mobile-home park in her father’s original hometown of Opelika, Alabama. She had been 4 or 5 years old at the time of her death. For more than a decade, investigators were frustrated by the fact that they didn’t know her name.
In 2022, advanced forensic DNA extraction and analysis techniques allowed investigators to finally identify Amore’s biological parents. Her mother, Sherry, has been fully cooperative with police and an asset to the investigation.
Lamar and Ruth Vickerstaff denied knowing anything about Amore’s identity or death when originally questioned by investigators. Amore’s mother, Sherry, provided investigators with legal and financial documentation that proved the Vickerstaffs had had physical and legal custody of Amore since 2009, and had also received steady child support payments during that time.
Amore’s father, Lamar Vickerstaff Jr, has been charged with felony murder in relation to Amore’s death. He has also been charged with failure to report a child missing.
Amore’s step-mother, Ruth Vickerstaff, has also been charged with failure to report a child missing.
Both of the Vickerstaffs were arrested on January 17th, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida, where they have been living since being stationed at Naval Base Mayport. At the time of the January 19th, 2023 press conference, they were both awaiting extradition to Alabama, where they will face the charges that have been leveled against them.
Opelika Police say the investigation is still active, and they need the public’s help in learning more about what Amore’s life with her father and step-mother was like. Please share Amore’s story with anyone you may know who lived in the Norfolk, Virginia or Opelika, Alabama areas at any point during or between the years of 2009-2011.
Sources used to research these updates: