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DNA technology could help identify 'Apache Junction Jane Doe'

The DNA Doe Project is now working with Apache Junction police to try to identify a teen girl found dead in a desert area back in 1992.
Credit: DNA Doe Project

PHOENIX — It's a case that's gone cold, more than two decades old. 

On Aug. 6, 1992, a girl between the ages of 16 and 18 was found dead in a desert area south of the US 60 near Idaho Road in Apache Junction. Investigators believe she had been dead for three to five weeks at the time.

“Her body was in an advanced state of decomposition,” said Cairenn Binder, a forensic genealogist with DNA Doe Project who is working with Apache Junction police to try to identify the so-called Apache Junction Jane Doe. Her work is based on DNA matches.  

Unfortunately, police couldn’t find any kind of ID on the teen and no cause of death was determined based on her autopsy. She was found wearing denim cut-offs and a short-sleeved t-shirt with a soccer theme.

“She had a Phoenix transit bus token in her pocket,” she said. “She had a ring that was with a gold nugget shape at the end of it. None of these items have led to her identification.”

The DNA Doe Project uses genetic genealogy to identify John and Jane Does.

“My mother is adopted and so I’ve used DNA genealogy before to solve my mother’s adoption case to find her birth parents,” said Binder. “We use the same sort of techniques that you would use for an adoptee to solve a Jane Doe case.”

The organization works with law enforcement agencies and medical examiners across the country, helping them solve their cold cases.

“What we’re looking for is the common ancestor between our Jane Doe and the matches that we see,” she said.

Binder hopes to find someone who knew the teen or someone who might have answers surrounding her death. Advanced DNA technology could be key to this case.

“What we need for Apache Junction Jane Doe are DNA matches,” said Binder. “A lot of people got DNA tests for Christmas, Ancestry, 23andME; They can download their data off of those websites and upload to GEDmatch.com.”

Binder’s hope is to get a name back to Apache Junction Jane Doe.

“She deserves to be buried with her name,” she said. “Most of all, if she was murdered, the only way for her murder to be brought to justice is for her to be identified first.”

Binder says the Doe Project has helped solve 10 cases and she’s hoping this case will eventually make 11. 

If you know anything pertaining to the Apache Junction Jane Doe case, contact the Apache Junction Police Department.