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Decades-long mystery of Apache Junction Jane Doe case finally solved

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Posted at 6:12 PM, Nov 16, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The ongoing mystery surrounding the Apache Junction Jane Doe case has been unraveled with the positive identification of the previously unnamed victim.

Missing from Phoenix, the woman has been identified as Melody Harrison through the combined efforts of Apache Junction Crime Scene Investigator Stephanie Bourgeois and the DNA Doe Project.

RELATED COVERAGE: Apache Junction police have been trying to solve a 28-year-old cold case and mystery

Harrison's remains were found in a remote area of Apache Junction, initiating a thorough forensic investigation.

Despite the case going cold, Bourgeois sought assistance from the DNA Doe Project, leading to a five-year effort by volunteer genetic genealogists.

Adoptions, and the fact that Harrison's ancestry includes relatives of Mexican and African-American descent—populations underrepresented in the databases—complicated the case's genealogy, according to investigators.

“Complications with adoptions, misattributed parentage, and underrepresented population demographics never deterred DDP’s genealogists from working on this case after five years of research,” said DNA Doe Project researcher Bryan Worters. “Although bittersweet, it is an honor to have played a role in restoring Melody’s identity and giving her family answers.”

RELATED COVERAGE: Finding the family of Apache Junction Jane Doe

In order to gain a deeper understanding of Harrison's relationships and family history, Bourgeois worked with team leaders Cairenn Binder and Harmony Bronson of the DNA Doe Project to speak with Harrison's relatives.

“The resolution of this case was the result of a determined effort by Officer Stephanie Bourgeois in collaboration with our dedicated team members at DNA Doe Project,” said Binder. “In spite of seemingly impossible challenges, the team kept on until all the puzzle pieces came together.”

Members of the DNA Doe Project thanked the Apache Junction Police Department, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Bode Technology, Fulgent Genetics, GEDmatch Pro, and FTDNA, along with donors and their dedicated volunteer genealogists for their crucial roles in bringing closure to the case.

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Bivian Contreras is a real-time editor for KGUN 9. Bivian graduated from the University of Arizona School of Journalism with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Broadcast and is currently pursuing a degree in Broadcast Operational Meteorology. Share your story ideas and important issues with Bivian by emailing bivian.contreras@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.