The remains of a teenage girl found more than three decades ago in Tennessee have finally been identified with the help of forensic genetic genealogy testing, officials announced Tuesday.
The skeletal remains were discovered on April 3, 1985 in Campbell County, Tennessee, and authorities believed they belonged to white female, likely between the age of 10 and 15, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.
As she couldn’t be identified, she was given the nickname “Baby Girl” by investigators.
Nearly 40 years later, the mystery behind Baby Girl’s identity was finally cracked — revealed to be Tracy Sue Walker, born in June 1963, the TBI announced in a release.
But her case is still shrouded in mystery. Walker had disappeared from the Lafayette, Indiana, area in 1978, when she was about 15. Investigators are now looking into what brought her to Tennessee and the circumstances leading up to her death.
Walker’s case went cold for years, but new strides were made thanks to developments in DNA technology.
In 2007, a sample of the “Baby Girl” remains was submitted to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification and a DNA profile was created for her in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, also known as CODIS, as well as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
Then in 2013, a TBI agent and intelligence analyst decided to revisit the case and look for leads to determine her real name.
But a break in the case didn’t come until earlier this year, when a sample of the child’s remains was sent to Othram, a private lab in Texas that conducts forensic genetic genealogy testing and has aided in a spate of cold cases.
The lab provided a possible relative connected to Baby Girl, who was living in Indiana.
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Using that data, the TBI located potential family members of Baby Girl in Lafayette, Indiana, and made contact.
Those contacts “confirmed they had a family member go missing from that area in 1978,” the TBI said.
The TBI worked with local Lafayette police to “obtain familiar DNA standards for possible siblings of the girl,” which were then entered into CODIS, the release said. It’s not clear what those “DNA standards” were.
This week, the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification positively identified the remains as belonging to Walker.
While it took nearly 40 years to know her name, her case is not yet solved. The TBI is asking for the public’s help with information about the case or tips about people Walker may have known prior to her death to help solve what happened to her.