The remains of a woman that were discovered 13 years ago in Fond du Lac County east of Lomira have been identified as an 18-year-old from Rockford, Illinois.
Fond du Lac County Sheriff Ryan Waldschmidt announced Tuesday that Amy Marie Yeary was identified through DNA evidence and forensic analysis, including methods that were not available until more recently.
Authorities still are investigating how she died.
"Amy was a victim of human sex trafficking," Waldschmidt said. "She was oftentimes transient, and detectives have learned she had spent time in the Chicago, Beloit and Milwaukee areas in the weeks preceding her death."
On Nov. 23, 2008, three hunters reported they had found the remains of a decomposed body on private property in a shallow creek on Skyline Drive in the town of Ashford in southeastern Fond du Lac County. Investigators, working in conjunction with the Medical Examiner’s Office, documented the scene, secured evidence, removed her body, and began the in-depth process of trying to identify the woman known as Jane Doe.
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In the weeks, months and years that followed, hundreds of missing persons files were reviewed, leads and tips followed up on, and computer generated facial and physical composites were shared with the public, however Jane Doe remained unidentified.
She was finally buried in the Cattaraugus Cemetery Dec. 7, 2011.
“We have always remained optimistic that someday we would be able to identify Jane Doe, and that is why this case has continuously been assigned to detectives since the investigation began,” Waldschmidt said.
In November of 2016, two of detectives were given the opportunity to present this case to a panel of national experts and a forensic anthropologist at the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia. Based on the presentation, experts recommended the body be exhumed to collect bone, tooth and hair samples in order to conduct new forms of forensic testing that did not exist in 2008. Jane Doe was exhumed April 26, 2018, and samples were collected and sent to numerous laboratories throughout the country that specialize in various forms of forensic analysis.
In the months following her exhumation, detectives received results from the forensic testing and used those results to compare to other known DNA profiles. Genealogy research, assisted by national expert Barbara Rae-Venter, provided investigators new leads that led to identifying individuals believed to be direct relation to Jane Doe, and DNA samples were collected from those potential family members in the hopes of confirming her identify.
Yeary was positively identified using three different means: comparison of DNA from her mother, comparison of DNA from her sister, and a comparison of dental x-rays.
While speaking with Yeary’s mother, detectives learned that in late summer of 2008, Amy Yeary made a phone call to her mother and stated she was in Beloit and wanted a ride home. Her mother was living in northern Illinois at the time, but was unable to accommodate Amy’s request and family never heard from Amy again. While no official missing person report was ever filed, Yeary’s family continued their own search.
“As we continue our investigation; today, we are here asking for the public’s help,” Waldschimidt said. “If there is anyone who knew Amy Marie Yeary, has knowledge surrounding her death, or knows how or why she would have travelled to southeastern Fond du Lac County in the summer of 2008, we ask that you please come forward. Any information you have could be extremely helpful to our investigation, and no matter how small or inconsequential you think your information may be, we ask that you contact us. You can contact Detective Ryan Murphy at 920-929-3380 or call our Fond du Lac County Law Enforcement Tip Line at 920-906-4777 and leave an anonymous message.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.