Sep 18, 2012 12:10 PM by Lupita Murillo
TUCSON - Almost 50 years after the remains of a teenage girl were found in Tucson, DNA evidence and a new national database may help police to identify this "Jane Doe."
Nearly 800,000 children under 18 are reported missing each year - startling statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Not knowing if your child is dead or alive can be a living nightmare for parents. The center has funding available to help parents find answers, even if the case is over half a century old.
Remains were found at the north end of Campbell Avenue in 1965. Well-known Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Walker Birkby said they belonged to a white female who was about 17 years old. Dr. Bruce Anderson, of the Medical Examiner's office, says, "It's actually the first case that Dr. Walter Birkby ever examined as a forensic anthropologist. Dr. Birkby thought that she'd been dead months - maybe up to five years."
Over the last decade, her remains were resting in the county cemetery, where she is known only as "Jane Doe."
She was exhumed so that DNA could be taken from the bones.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is funding the exhumation.
The body was badly decomposed, so the cause of death was listed as "undetermined." What shocked everyone at the cemetery were the bullet casings and a weapon inside the body bag. Sheriff's officials couldn't explain why the victim would be buried with evidence.
"From what we know of the case, there were cartridge casings of a firearm along with a fired casing that were found at the scene," says Pima County Sheriff's detective Mark O'Dell.
There are two families who think this might be their missing loved one. Dr Anderson says, "Because of DNA technology and this computer program called NamUs, we now have several families who have their loved one, a missing daughter, a missing sister listed in NamUs."
The bones were cleaned at the medical examiner's office. DNA was extracted from marrow in the tibia.
Fifty years ago, Dr. Birkby tried to use an malpositioned tooth in the skull to identify her, sohe took the skull to a dentist convention in town. Dr. Anderson says, "Since she saw a dentist and we know that because she had fillings, they were all of the opinion that that dentist should have extracted that tooth when he was in her mouth for the fillings."
Glenn Scott is with Project Alert, an organization made up of retired law enforcement officers who work with The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. " Ninety percent of what we're doing is trying to give closure to the families that that have children that have been missing for a long period of time."
So with the internet, NamUs, and public involvement, especially families of the missing, they now actively participate in trying to solve mysteries that are now at least 50 years old. DNA testing technology is likely going to be key to figuring out the identify of this young woman.
This case has been expedited; the samples are at a Texas lab. The families will have an answer in three months.
For more information on the organizations behind this case, visit:
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