The answer to one mystery leads police to another unanswered question.
Now that they have identified the decades-old remains as Melody Harrison, 15, the Apache Junction Police Department in Arizona must determine how she wound up dead and missing more than 40 miles away from home.
“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,” investigator Stephanie Bourgeois said. “We are still searching to find out how she might have passed away.”
Harrison’s family reported her missing from the city of Phoenix in June 1992. People, however, reached out to the family and described seeing Melody in multiple places, according to police. Relatives came to believe she began a new life and did not want to return home. With her family believing her to be alive, she was removed form the missing person’s database in August 1996.
She had been dead for at least four years at that point, however. Her body — then known only as Apache Junction Jane Doe — was found on Aug. 6, 1992, in a desert area near the northwest corner of Idaho and Baseline Roads, south of U.S. Highway 60 in Apache Junction, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Authorities believe she had been dead for approximately three to five weeks prior to the discovery.
From the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
She was found wearing a pair of blue denim cut-off short pants (“Levis” brand) and a light colored pullover short-sleeved t-shirt with soccer balls on the front and back (“Team Gear” brand, size Large). A Phoenix Transit System token inscribed with the words “Valid for one student fare” was located in her left front pants pocket. A round piece of paper the size of a penny was found in her left front pants pocket. The paper had a figure of Abraham Lincoln on one side and the Lincoln Memorial on the other side, both in green ink. The Jane Doe was also found wearing a yellow metal ring with a nugget design on her left ring finger.
Apache Junction authorities worked for years to give this Jane Doe her real name back. Police now credit genetic genealogy techniques from the DNA Doe Project with with helping solve the case. They tracked down the truth through genealogical records and finally confirmed the link by comparing relatives’ DNA.
The next step is figuring out how Harrison wound up in Apache Junction in the first place. Officers are seeking information on her presence there during the time of her 1992 disappearance. In particular, they think details about her close friends or relationships could be key to solving what happened.
If anyone has information regarding this case, we encourage them to contact Silent Witness at 480-W-I-T-N-E-S-S, 480-948-6377, or 480-T-E-S-T-I-G-O for Spanish speaking. They can also leave an anonymous tip on their website at silentwitness.org. Responses can be completely anonymous and could earn a cash reward for information leading to the arrest and/or indictment of the suspect(s) of this crime.
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