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DNA Identifies AR Murder Victim in Ohio Cold Case

TROY, Ohio (WDTN) - Ohio authorities have identified a murder victim with Arkansas ties from a 1981 cold case. 

The Miami County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday in a news release that they have identified a woman who was strangled to death and found beside Greenlee Road, in Miami County, Ohio on April 24, 1981 using ground-breaking DNA techniques.

The woman has been identified as Marcia L. King, 21, from North Little Rock. Investigators were able to use a stored blood sample from the case and confirmed the identity using samples from the family.

According to the Miami County Sheriff's Office, the victim's body was discovered in 1981 fully clothed and was estimated to have been dead for only hours. She was wearing jeans and a fringed buckskin jacket with a Native American design.

The autopsy, conducted at Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, concluded the victim was killed by strangulation and blunt force trauma. County officials say the case has remained assigned to a detective as an active investigation since the victim was discovered. The female’s identity was not able to be determined at the time, though fingerprints were obtained and later entered into the FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). The victim had no dental fillings, but had a crown on her upper right front tooth.  

County officials say that as DNA technology came available, the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab generated the victim’s nuclear DNA profile in 2001. In December of 2008, the profile of “Buckskin Girl” as she became known was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). In 2009, her mitochondrial DNA profile was developed at the NamUs DNA lab at the University of North Texas. Both the nuclear and mitochondrial genetic profiles of the deceased were entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). In January of 2010, NamUs case management was assigned to Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a forensic anthropologist and Professor of Biology at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, who has assisted in the investigation since then.  

The victim remained unidentified for nearly 37 years, despite continued efforts. Identification efforts included a new facial image generated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in February 2016; pollen studies on the victim’s clothing by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency in April 2016; and stable isotope studies on her hair in June 2016 in an effort to trace the victim’s location and geographic movements in the last year of life. 

On April 11, the Miami County Sheriff's Office announce that Marcia L. King of Arkansas has been identified as the Miami County Jane Doe who became known as the Buckskin Girl. The DNA confirmation was made on Monday, April 9 by the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab. The Miami County Coroner, Dr. William Ginn, will issue the death certificate.

The scientific assistance that finally led to the victim’s identification was conducted by the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit organization recently created to apply genetic genealogy tools to the identification of unknown persons. The victim's DNA was obtained from a blood sample that had been in storage since 1981; it was processed using advanced DNA techniques, and uploaded to a public genealogy database. The DNA Doe Project was founded in 2017 by Colleen Fitzpatrick and Margaret Press.  The Miami County Jane Doe case was accepted as one of the first cases for the project. The DNA Doe Project relies on genetic genealogy tools similar to those used by genealogists for analyzing DNA results normally provided by direct-to-consumer testing companies.   

The Miami County Sheriff's Office says the identification of the victim is critical in advancing the investigation towards finding the person or persons responsible for this crime.

Investigators are still asking for the public's help to determine a timeline surrounding the murder and say the homicide investigation is still ongoing.

If you know anything about this case you can submit a tip online on the Miami County Sheriff's website.

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