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The skeletal remains of a girl discovered in Tennessee more than 30 years ago have been identified as a 15-year-old Indiana girl who went missing in the 1970s.
The unidentified body that investigators named “Baby Girl” was linked to Tracy Sue Walker via DNA technology, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations announced Tuesday.
Walker went missing in 1978 from Lafayette, Indiana — nearly 400 miles from where her body was discovered in Campbell County, Tennessee.
How she ended up across multiple state lines and how she died remains a mystery, researchers said.
Walker’s body was found in the Big Wheel Gap area of Elk Valley on April 3, 1985, about seven years after she disappeared.
Forensic anthropologists were unable to identify the body, but confirmed that the remains belonged to a white woman, likely between the ages of 10 and 15, inspiring researchers to affectionately call her “Baby Girl.”
More than two decades after the body was recovered, researchers submitted a sample of the remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in hopes of finding out who she was.
University scientists developed a DNA profile that was fed into the Combined DNA Index System, as well as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
In 2013, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigations agent and an intelligence analyst reviewed the case again, looking for new clues that could help identify Baby Girl.
Finally — nine years later — investigators got a breakthrough on the case after sending a sample of the girl’s body to a private lab that analyzes human DNA.
Scientists in the lab, Othram, conducted forensic genetic genealogy tests and in June found a possible relative of the child who shared a similar DNA profile in Indiana.
Tennessee researchers identified potential relatives in Lafayette, Indiana based on DNA information. They contacted one person, who confirmed that a relative had gone missing in 1978.
Together with the Lafayette Police Department, the investigators obtained family DNA standards for possible Baby Girl siblings and submitted them to the DNA database.
This week, the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification confirmed that Baby Girl was, in fact, Walker.
Now the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations is shifting its focus to learning what happened to Walker.
The agency is asking anyone with information about the case or knowledge of individuals Walker was with before her death to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.