Dr. Bill Bass, the lead forensic anthropologist in the case, said, "We must have run a thousand tests, and we went over this for months but we never got anything. It was just a complete blank."
On April 3, 1985, skeletal remains were found in the Big Wheel Gap area of Elk Valley in Campbell County, Tennessee. The only information that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) had was that the skeletal remains were thought to belong to a white female, probably between the ages of 10 and 15. Investigators gave her the moniker "Baby Girl" since they were unable to identify her. Dr. Bill Bass, the lead forensic anthropologist in the case told NBC, "We must have run a thousand tests, and we went over this for months but we never got anything. It was just a complete blank."
After over 37 years of speculation, Baby Girl was finally identified as Indiana teen Tracy Sue Walker, who went missing in 1978. Using forensic genetic genealogy testing, the remains of a teenage girl discovered in Tennessee more than three decades ago have finally been identified, authorities said on Tuesday in a press release.
But questions still remain about Walker's case. When she was about 15 years old, Walker was reported missing from the Lafayette, Indiana, region in 1978. Investigators are trying to figure out what brought her to Tennessee and what happened to her, per NBC News.
For decades, investigators in Tennessee referred to an unidentified girl whose remains were found in 1985 as "Baby Girl." Now, 37 years later, the girl has been identified as an Indiana native. https://t.co/oFeNWTetu5— Chris Essex (@Chris_WTHI) August 31, 2022
A sample of the bodily remains was submitted to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) in 2007, and a DNA profile of the victim was developed and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) as well as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, per the press release. These efforts were made "in hopes that she would eventually be identified."
After years of Walker's case going cold with zero leads, strides were finally made when years later, TBI decided to revisit this cold case. An intelligence analyst and TBI agent decided to reexamine the case in 2013 and search for leads to learn her real name. A breakthrough in the case occurred only this year. While working with the University of Tennessee Anthropology Department, a sample of the child's remains was sent to Othram, a private Texas lab that performs forensic genetic genealogy testing.
With the help of forensic genetic genealogy testing, the remains of a teenage girl found more than three decades ago in Tennessee have finally been identified as Tracy Sue Walker, officials announced Tuesday. #Dateline https://t.co/f3vkn9oJnQ— Dateline NBC (@DatelineNBC) August 31, 2022
The laboratory gave TBI a tip on a potential relative. The TBI located the relatives of Baby Girl in Lafayette, Indiana using the information, and contacted them. According to the TBI, the contacts "confirmed they had a family member go missing from that area in 1978."
Agents were then able to gather familial DNA standards from potential siblings of the girl with the aid of the Lafayette, Indiana Police Department. These standards were then sent to the TBI Crime Lab in Nashville for input into CODIS. The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification positively recognized "Baby Girl" as Tracy Sue Walker, born June 2, 1963, who disappeared from Lafayette, Indiana, in 1978.
However, the case still isn't closed. TBI Special Agents are hoping that they can solve the case of how the teen went missing in the first place. They wish to determine the circumstances of Walker's death, and also how she was brought all the way to Campbell County. They requested the public to provide any information that can help solve the case. "If you have information about this case or any knowledge about individuals Tracy may have been with before her death, please call 1-800-TBI-FIND," the release said.
Cover Image Source: Tennessee Bureau Of Investigation