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Remains Found 37 Years ID’d as Kansan

Todd PittengerAugust 9, 2022

Authorities in New Mexico have identified remains found 37-years-ago as a missing teen from Kansas.

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, on March 10th, 1985, the Doña Ana County New Mexico Sheriff’s Office (DASO) received a call from local hunters regarding possible human remains that were found near the Mountain Bell Telephone relay building off of County Road E-073 approximately 1.2 miles north of Upham exit (Exit 32) off Interstate 25. The remains were believed to be a white female estimated to have been between 16-19 years old at the time of her death and approximately 5’2 inches tall with blonde to light brown hair. The unknown female was found wearing a sports jersey with ¾ length sleeves. “Wilson” was imprinted across with a large “W” on a white background.

In the initial stages of the investigation, it was determined that the female likely died 3-6 months prior to being located thus making her estimated date of death between September 10, 1984 to January 10, 1985.

Over the course of the next 37 years, the identity of the female remained unknown as investigators continued to follow leads, including looking at numerous missing persons’ cases. However, all the leads were determined to be dead ends.

On March 10, 2021, the case of Jane Doe was assigned to Detective Melissa Agullo with the hope that new technology and investigative tools could lead to the answers that had long eluded this case.

While Detective Agullo reviewed three decades’ worth of case files, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) reached out to DASO to offer DNA resources for unidentified cases.

“When I started working at NCMEC last year, I knew we had resources at our disposal that could be the key to finding answers in cases like our Jane Doe,” said Ainsley Cotter, Forensic Case Manager at NCMEC. “I’m originally from New Mexico and will always have a soft spot for the communities there. When I first talked to Det. Agullo she was immediately on board and was willing to try anything she could to find answers to this case and provide answers to Jane Doe’s family.”

In collaboration with DASO and the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, the left femur bone of Jane Doe was submitted to Astrea Forensics; DNA was extracted from approximately 155 milligrams (mg) of bone powder. Picture a 200mg tablet of Ibuprofen to test; Astrea uses groundbreaking technology that can use the ‘best data from the worst samples for use in genetic genealogy.’ The process was successful and DNA results were then submitted to Innovative Forensics Investigations to build out a genealogical family tree. The collaborative work led to answers and after more than three decades Jane Doe was identified as 16-year-old, Dorothy Harrison.

“I’ve spent my entire career working to be able to give answers to victims of crime regardless of how much time has passed,” said Sheriff Kim Stewart. “I’m incredibly proud of my team at the Sheriff’s Office for their tenacity and dedication to finding answers for our cold cases. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Dorothy’s family as they process this news.”

Dorothy’s family requested that the Dona Ana Sheriff’s Office release this statement on their behalf:

“Dorothy was a typical teenager; she was only 16 years old when this horrific crime happened to her. Like most teens she was sometimes unhappy at home and easily influenced. She left home with some people she thought were her friends and we never saw her again. The news of her death is devastating and even though this crime happened over 30 years ago, to our family, it is new and incredibly difficult information to process. We have so many unanswered questions and are hopeful that the continued investigation will be able to provide some of those answers. We ask that you give us this time to grieve and request any questions or information about Dorothy’s murder be sent to Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart.”

 CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN LAST SEEN:

Dorothy Harrison, 16, was last seen on Thursday, July 25, 1984, around 5:00 pm when she left her home in Wichita, Kansas and was seen by a sibling getting into a car with two unknown girls.  Dorothy’s family reported her missing at that time.

Dorothy would frequently leave and be gone weeks on end during the summer. Law enforcement would always locate her and bring her home, but she would inevitably leave again, always staying in Kansas.  Approximately a week and a half after Dorothy ran away her family received a phone call from her saying she was in Los Angeles. During this time, we know that the 1984 Summer Olympic Games (XXIII) were happening between July 6 – August 12, 1984. A few weeks later her family received another phone call from Dorothy saying that she was in El Paso, Texas and that she was on her way home. That was the last time the family heard from her.

Dorothy’s case is a homicide, and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office continues to seek information from the public regarding this case.

 Timeline:

  • Dorothy leaves her home in Wichita, Kansas on Thursday, July 25, 1984, around 5:00 pm.
  • Sometime in the beginning of August 1984, Dorothy calls her family and says she is in Los Angeles, California (1984 Summer Olympic Games (XXIII) taking place in L.A. beginning July 6 – August 12, 1984).
  • Weeks later, approximately late August – early September 1984 Dorothy calls home again saying she is in El Paso, Texas and is on her way back to Wichita, Kansas. No one hears from Dorothy after this last phone call.
  • Dorothy was likely killed between September 10, 1984 to January 10, 1985.
  • Dorothy’s remains are located in Dona Ana County, New Mexico, approximately 50 miles north of El Paso, Texas on March 10, 1985

Dorothy was approximately 5’1 in height and weighed 95 pounds. She had light brown hair, green eyes and a medium complexion. Her nostrils aren’t even and were considered lopsided. She had a small scar on the bow of her mouth. She often wore heavy eye makeup.

When she was last seen she was getting into a vehicle that was described as a big, tan, long car. Dorothy was picked up by two unknown females, described as white female and a black female, both older.

DASO sends a special thank you to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Astrea Forensics and Innovative Forensics Investigations who helped make today’s announcement possible.

If you have information about Dorothy Harrison or believe you encountered her between July 25, 1984, and the time of her homicide, contact the DASO at 575-525-1911

Copyright © Meridian Media, 2022. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Meridian Media’s express consent.

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