Human remains found in a desert in 1992 have now been identified as a missing 15-year-old girl, Arizona officials said.
The “decomposed remains were found in a remote desert area” of Apache Junction in August 1992, according to a news release by the city’s police department.
Officials believe the person had been dead for three to five weeks before being found, according to the nonprofit DNA Doe Project’s website.
In 2008, investigator Stephanie Bourgeois got the case and “retested evidence due to advanced technology,” but with no success, the case went cold, police said.
Then in 2018, the police department hired the DNA Doe Project to perform genetic genealogy on the remains, officials said.
Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing coupled with “traditional genealogical methods” to create “family history profiles,” according to the Library of Congress. With genealogical DNA testing, researchers can determine “the levels and types of biological relationships between or among individuals.”
After that process was conducted, the remains were identified as Melody Harrison, police said.
“Complications with adoptions, misattributed parentage, and underrepresented population demographics never deterred DDP’s genealogists from working on this case after five years of research,” DNA Doe Project researcher Bryan Worters said in a news release. “Although bittersweet, it is an honor to have played a role in restoring Melody’s identity and giving her family answers.”
Melody was reported missing from Phoenix in June 1992, police said. Her remains were found 40 miles east of her home.
Melody was put in The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s database before being removed in 1996 when people came forward saying they had seen her in various places, officers said. Her family thought she “started a new life and did not want to go home.”
The Apache Junction Police Department urges anyone with information about Melody’s disappearance to call 480-948-6377, the release said.