KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The remains of a young girl found dead in East Tennessee more than three decades ago have been identified through DNA analysis. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is now asking for the public’s help to determine what happened to her.
This week, the remains were positively identified as Tracy Sue Walker, who went missing from the Lafayette, Indiana area in 1978 when she was around 15 years old.
Skeletal remains were found in the Big Wheel Gap area of Campbell County on April 3, 1985.
Forensic anthropologists at the time determined that the skeletal remains were those of a white female, likely between the age of 10 and 15. Investigators were unable to determine her identity and she became affectionately known as ‘Baby Girl.’
Special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are working to determine what happened to Walker and how she ended up in Campbell County.
TBI shared a timeline showing how investigators confirmed her identity:
- In 2007, a sample of her remains was submitted to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) in hopes of identifying the victim. A DNA profile was developed for the victim and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) as well as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System in hopes that she would eventually be identified.
- In 2013, a TBI agent and intelligence analyst revisited the case and began searching for new leads regarding the girl’s identity. It would be nine more years before they received a break in the case.
- Earlier this year, working with the University of Tennessee Anthropology Department, a sample of the child’s remains was sent to Othram, a private laboratory that analyzes human DNA. There, scientists conducted forensic genetic genealogy testing. In June, Othram provided a possible relative connected to the child who was living in Indiana. Using that information, a TBI intelligence analyst located potential family members in the Lafayette, Indiana area. A TBI agent made contact with those individuals and confirmed they had a family member go missing from that area in 1978. With the assistance of the Lafayette, Indiana Police Department, agents were able to obtain familial DNA standards for possible siblings of the girl, which were submitted to the TBI Crime Lab in Nashville for entry into CODIS.
- This week, the UNTCHI positively identified ‘Baby Girl’ as Tracy Sue Walker, born in June 1963, who was reported missing from the Lafayette, Indiana, area in 1978.
TBI Special Agents are now hoping the public can help give more information that could help determine the circumstances leading to Walker’s death. If you have information about this case or any knowledge about individuals Tracy may have been with before her death, you’re asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Authorities say nearly 400 people go missing in Tennessee each year. That’s five people for every 100,000. Check this list of people missing from East Tennessee to see if you can help locate someone.