APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. (TCD) — Officials have positively identified human remains found in the desert as a 15-year-old who went missing over 30 years ago.
According to the Apache Junction Police Department, Melody Harrison’s family reported her missing to the Phoenix Police Department in June 1992. Then, about a month and a half later on Aug. 6, 1992, officials discovered decomposed human remains near Idaho and Baseline roads in the remote desert of Apache Junction. The victim became known as Apache Junction Jane Doe.
KTVK-TV reports Apache Junction Police Chief Mike Pooley said in a news conference that a dog walker discovered the human remains in an area that was extremely remote and desolate.
“There was nothing out here,” he said. “These were dirt roads where we are right now. Baseline was a dirt road, Idaho was dirt, it was very, very infrequent that people would come out here.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said Apache Junction Jane Doe was 5-foot-1 and between 16 and 18 years old. She had most likely been deceased for three to five weeks by the time her body was discovered. According to the center, officials could not immediately identify her race, but her hair was “microscopically similar to head hairs from known Admixed AmerIndian.”
She was wearing long Levi’s shorts and a white shirt with soccer designs. She also reportedly had a Phoenix Transit System card on her, as well as a small drawing of a penny. The statement said the victim had “no obvious dental care and her teeth were described as ‘protruding.'”
Apache Junction Police said in the news release Harrison was removed from the missing persons list in August 1996 because people told the family they had seen her in different locations. This consequently made her family believe she “started a new life and did not want to go home,” but that she was still alive.
In 2008, Apache Police investigator Stephanie Bourgeois took over the case, but it eventually went cold. Ten years later, the police department partnered with the DNA Doe Project to help use genetic genealogical technology to create a DNA profile of Apache Junction Jane Doe. The next year, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children put up billboards around Phoenix asking for help identifying the victim.
According to KTVK, the DNA Doe Project used a family tree to locate a very distant relative, which then helped investigators home in on a closer cousin. Eventually, they identified Apache Junction Jane Doe as Harrison. She reportedly lived in Phoenix and was in her freshman year at Stone Mountain High School.
Apache Junction Police said in the statement investigators were trying to determine how she ended up in the desert 40 miles from where she lived.
Bourgeois said, “There is peace of mind having found Melody’s identity and sharing with her family, but there isn’t closure surrounding the circumstances of her death. We are still searching to find out how she might have passed away.”
- Three Decades Later: Jane Doe Finally Identified – Apache Junction Police
- Jane Apache Junction Doe 1992 – National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Jane Doe identified in 30-year-old Apache Junction cold case – KTVK
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