On August 6, 1992, the body of an unidentified female was located in a desert area south of US Highway 60 and west of Idaho Road in Apache Junction, Pinal County, Arizona.
It is believed the Jane Doe had been deceased for approximately 3 to 5 weeks prior to recovery. Her age at death is estimated between 16- and 18-years-old. She was 5′ 1″ (61 inches); her weight could not be determined. She had brown hair in a ponytail, which contained a light-colored elastic hair band. She was found wearing a pair of blue denim cut-off short pants (“Levis” brand; no size can be determined.) and a light colored pullover short-sleeved t-shirt with soccer balls on the front and back (“Team Gear” brand, size Large). She was also found wearing a yellow metal ring with a nugget design on her left ring finger. A Phoenix Transit System token inscribed with the words “Valid for one student fare” was located in her pocket. She had no obvious signs of dental care and her teeth were described as “protruding”.
Agency of Jurisdiction
Apache Junction Police Department
Stephanie Bourgeois, Crime Scene Technician
The decades-long mystery surrounding the Apache Junction Jane Doe case has finally been resolved with the positive identification of the previously unnamed victim. After relentless efforts by Apache Junction Crime Scene Investigator Stephanie Bourgeois and innovative investigative genetic genealogy techniques deployed by the DNA Doe Project, the once unidentified woman has been identified as Melody Harrison, reported missing from Phoenix, Arizona.
Melody Harrison’s remains were found in a remote area of Apache Junction, sparking a painstaking forensic investigation to determine her identity and return her to her family.
Despite the best efforts of investigators, the case went cold until Investigator Bourgeois learned about the DNA Doe Project’s first identification of a Jane Doe in 2018. She reached out to the non-profit organization for help with Apache Junction Jane Doe, and applied for a grant to help offset the cost of expensive lab work needed to develop a DNA profile.
It would take five years and countless hours of dedicated research by more than a dozen volunteer investigative genetic genealogists to find the critical breakthrough in this case.
Investigative genetic genealogy is the process of analyzing the DNA relatives of an unknown individual in order to build a family tree, allowing investigators to focus on the specific branch of the family where they will find the Jane or John Doe. This process relies on availability of traditional genealogical records like birth, death, and marriage certificates. Also critically important are the availability of DNA profiles of relatives in the two databases that allow searching for law enforcement cases – GEDmatch Pro and FamilyTreeDNA.com.
The genealogy in this case was complicated by adoptions as well as the fact that Melody Harrison’s ancestry includes relatives of Mexican and African-American descent, both populations that are underrepresented in the databases.
“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.”
Team leaders Cairenn Binder and Harmony Bronson of the DNA Doe Project worked with Investigator Bourgeois to communicate with family members of Melody Harrison in order to better understand her relationships and family history.
“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.”
The DNA Doe Project is grateful to the groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Apache Junction Police Department, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for providing investigative resources; Bode Technology for extraction of DNA and sample prep for whole-genome sequencing; Fulgent Genetics for whole-genome sequencing and bioinformatics; GEDmatch Pro and FTDNA for providing their databases; our generous donors who joined our mission and contributed to this case; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who work tirelessly to bring all our Jane and John Does home.
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Last Updated: December 21, 2023