APACHE JUNCTION — Police may have a lead in a nearly 30-year-old Pinal County cold case after teaming up with an organization that uses DNA genealogy databases to help police look for possible relatives of unknown victims of crime.
On Aug. 6, 1992, the body of a 16- to 18-year-old woman, known as Apache Junction Jane Doe, was found in the desert near Baseline and Idaho roads in Apache Junction by a man walking his dog, Apache Junction Police spokesman Cpl. Marshall Harshman stated in an email. Officers believe the woman’s remains may have been in the desert for three to five weeks before she was discovered. An autopsy failed to determine the cause of her death.
The woman was about 4-foot-11 to 5-foot-1 in height, had coarse brown hair and is believed to be of African American, Native American and German heritage, he stated. She was wearing a “Team Gear” T-shirt with soccer balls printed on both the front and back of the shirt, along with a pair of Levi’s cutoff shorts. A ring was found on her left hand.
Her teeth are her most prominent feature, Harshman stated. She apparently had very little to no dental care and her teeth protruded from her mouth.
The department recently started working with the nonprofit Jane Doe Project to identify the body.
The organization of volunteers was founded in 2017 and uses genetic genealogy to help law enforcement agencies across the nation identify the bodies of John and Jane Does. It also raises funds to help law enforcement agencies cover the cost of extracting and sequencing DNA from remains.
The Jane Doe Project was able to identify a possible relative of Apache Junction Jane Doe, Harshman stated. Police were able to contact that person, who gave them the name of another possible relative, Bernhard Lyon Neumann, who was born in Darmstadt-Eberstadt, Germany, in 1953.
“We want to emphasize that Bernhard Neumann is not suspected of any wrongdoing,” Harshman stated. “Our only interest in locating him is for the purpose of identifying our Jane Doe.”
Harshman said the department has gotten a number of calls about the case since the story appeared on a Tucson television station and Court TV. Officers are investigating some possible leads from those calls.
Anyone with information about Apache Junction Jane Doe can call the Criminal Investigations Division at the Apache Junction Police Department at 480-982-8260 and ask for Crime Scene Technician Stephanie Bourgeois.