More than 30 years of mystery have shrouded the identity of the Apache Junction Jane Doe case. Apache Junction police have identified the female as 15-year-old Melody Harrison, who was reported missing from Phoenix, in June 1992. Her identification was possible through the persistent efforts of the department's investigator Stephanie Bourgeois and the innovative genetic genealogy techniques of the DNA Doe Project. Police Chief Michael Pooley and crime tech Bourgeois addressed the news media on Nov. 17 to announce the identification.
Melody’s decomposed remains were found in a remote desert area of Apache Junction on the northwest corner of Idaho and Baseline Roads on Aug. 6, 1992, sparking a thorough forensic investigation to determine her identity and cause of death. Although she has been identified, the investigation continues as to how she ended up in the far east portion of the Valley, more than 40 miles away from her residence.
Using the DNA Doe Project’s investigative genetic genealogy process, they analyzed DNA of possible relatives and built a family tree, allowing investigators to make branches through genealogical records and two databases – GEDmatch Pro and FamilyTreeDNA.com.
Besides genetic DNA, a second confirmation of DNA was done by comparing family members, confirming the identity.
Bourgeois picked up the case in 2008 and retested evidence with the now-advanced technology. Over the years, other investigative tools were used, but the case again went cold. In 2018, the department hired the DNA Doe Project to conduct forensic investigative genetic genealogy to further develop the unidentified teen-ager’s DNA profile.
Melody’s family filed the initial missing person report through Phoenix Police in June 1992. However, due to individuals coming forth to the family saying they had seen Melody in multiple locations, the family believed she started a new life and did not want to go home. She was removed from the missing person’s database in August 1996. Her family thought she was still alive.
In 2019, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children posted two billboards in the Phoenix area of a composite sketch to help assist with her identification and no leads were presented.
Identifying Melody was always the priority. Through dedicated research with dozens of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists and the incredible work of Bourgeois, Melody was given back her name.
“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,” Bourgeois said. “We are still searching to find out how she might have passed away.”
Police seek information from anyone who can shed light on Melody’s presence in Apache Junction during the time of her disappearance in 1992. Any details regarding her close friends or relationships could be instrumental in solving this case.
If anyone has information regarding this case, we encourage them to contact Silent Witness at 480-W-I-T-N-E-S-S, 480-948-6377, or 480-T-E-S-T-I-G-O for Spanish speaking. They can also leave an anonymous tip on their website at silentwitness.org. Responses can be completely anonymous and could earn a cash reward for information leading to the arrest and/or indictment of the suspect(s) of this crime.