Remains found in Arizona desert in 1992 identified as missing teenage girl

Police in Arizona have determined that the decomposed remains found in August 1992 in a remote desert area outside Phoenix were those of missing 15-year-old Melody Harrison.

The Apache Junction Police Department announced Thursday that advances in DNA testing helped them make the discovery 31 years after Harrison disappeared in June 1992.

Police said in a news release that the case soon went cold after the remains were found, and for decades the remains were known only as “Apache Junction Jane Doe,” who was believed to be between 16 and 18 at the time of her death.

The case was later entered into a database maintained by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Unidentified Persons.

According to the entry, authorities believed the teenager had been dead between three and five weeks before her remains were found. She was wearing Levi's denim shorts, a shirt with soccer balls on the front and back, and a yellow ring on her left hand. In the front pockets of her pants, according to the database entry, police found a public transit voucher marked “Valid for a student ticket.”

In 1996, four years after relatives reported her missing, the family removed her from the missing person database, believing she was alive but “didn't want to go home” after several reports of possible sightings of the teenager, they said the authorities. .

The case was rekindled in 2008 after Apache Junction Police Investigator Stephanie Bourgeois took over, but DNA testing at the time was unsuccessful, the police department said.

Then, in 2018, Bourgeois hired the DNA Doe Project, a volunteer research group specializing in forensic genealogy. Police said investigators used DNA from the remains to build a comprehensive profile, leading them to possible relatives.

“It would take five years and countless hours of dedicated research by more than a dozen volunteer research genealogists to make the critical breakthrough in this case,” the DNA Doe Project said in a post on its website, highlighting the case as one of its success stories. her. .

A second test comparing DNA from possible family members confirmed that the “Apache Junction Jane Doe” was Harrison, police said.

“There is relief that we have identified Melody and I am sharing that with her family, but there are no details on the circumstances of her death,” Bourgeois said in a statement. “We are still looking to find out how he might have died.”