(RepublicanView.org) – The remains of a 15-year-old teenage girl who went missing in 1992 have been identified 31 years after they were discovered in the Sonoran Desert.
Authorities in Apache Junction, AZ, about 40 miles outside of Phoenix, used state-of-the-art forensics techniques to confirm the remains belonged to Melody Harrison. She went missing in June 1992, just two months before her remains were found.
Officials initially believed that she had been dead for around a month when her corpse was discovered. She was still wearing her own clothing, but authorities were unable to identify her at the time.
Harrison’s case largely went cold four years after her death. Her family decided to remove her from the national missing person’s database. They still believed she was probably alive but had determined that she likely didn’t want to return home. Their decision was driven by several claims of people spotting Harrison.
The case became active again 12 years later when, in 2008, Stephanie Bourgeois, an investigator in Apache Junction, decided to use new DNA testing methods to identify the remains. However, they still did not find a match.
Ten years later, Bourgeois enlisted the help of a volunteer group, The DNA Doe Project. The group specializes in analyzing DNA and remains through genealogical research. They were able to build a profile of possible relatives, which can help triangulate the identity of an anonymous corpse.
However, it still took an additional five years and a second test to finally find a link between the remains and Harrison’s actual relatives. Bourgeois told reporters that her family has peace of mind, but still lacks closure over her actual cause of death.
Police are considering that Harrison may have been murdered by a serial killer. Her description was similar to several local victims of two serial killers who tormented the area during the early 90s: Bryan Patrick Miller, who was just convicted this year of separate murders earlier this year, and Scott Lehr both killed several girls and women between 1991 and 1992. Miller is suspected in other murders as well, including one that occurred in 2013.
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