Jane Doe found dead in Apache Junction over 30 years ago identified as missing Phoenix teen

Nov 17, 2023, 8:18 AM | Updated: 11:14 am

PHOENIX — An unidentified girl who was found dead more than 30 years ago in Apache Junction has finally been identified, authorities announced Thursday.

The body was identified as 15-year-old Melody Harrison, a freshman at South Mountain High School, who was reported as missing from Phoenix in 1992, the Apache Junction Police Department said.

“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,” Stephanie Bourgeois, Apache Junction police investigator, said in a press release.

How did Melody Harrison’s case go cold?

The decomposed remains of an unidentified female were found in a remote desert area near Idaho and Baseline roads on Aug. 6, 1992.

“There was very little for us to go on at that point. There was no signs of trauma. There was really no way to find out how this individual had passed away or what had happened and the mystery became on ‘who was this individual?’ There was no identification,” Michael Poley, chief police for Apache Junction, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Two months after she went missing, Harrison’s family filed a missing persons report through the Phoenix Police Department.

She was taken off the missing list in 1996 following multiple reports to her family that she had been seen in various locations, police said.

Her family believed she was alive and didn’t want to return home.

What helped identify Harrison?

Authorities reopened the case in 2008, but it went cold again. The case got picked back up in 2018 with the help of the DNA Doe Project, which used genetic genealogy techniques to further develop her DNA profile.

DNA from potential relatives were analyzed and used to make a family tree, which allowed investigators to make branches through genealogical records and two databases.

Additionally, a second confirmation of DNA was done by comparing family members to confirm Harrison’s identity.

Where is the investigation into the Apache Junction case at now?

Now that Harrison has been identified, investigators are working to determine how she ended up over 40 miles away from her home.

The Apache Junction Police Department is looking for information regarding why Harrison was in the area during the time of her disappearance, as well as any details regarding her close friends or relationships.

Anyone with information was asked to call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS (948-6377) or 480-TESTIGO (837-8446) for Spanish.

Information leading to an arrest could be eligible for a reward.

“Just for those families that are still looking for their loved ones, and for the remains that are yet to be identified, there are dedicated professionals that are really trying to do everything they can to bring this resolution and, sometimes, closure to these families,” Poley said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Shira Tanzer contributed to this report.

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Jane Doe found dead in Apache Junction over 30 years ago identified as missing Phoenix teen