Teenage girl found dead near Detroit in 1996 has been identified

Nearly three decades after the body of a teenage girl was found in an alley in an enclave north of downtown Detroit, authorities have finally identified her.

The break in the case came after a profile developed from DNA testing was uploaded into ancestry databases, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said Thursday in a news release.

A tip developed this past summer through forensic genetic genealogy finally came up with a name for the 17-year-old who was found dead in Highland Park in May 1996: Mindy Clevidence.

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Officials had ruled her death a homicide. But all they had to go on was what she looked like and her clothing: a white T-shirt with yellow and black smiley faces, a white skirt, white socks, white gym shoes and a teddy bear watch. She was known simply as “Highland Park Jane Doe.”

“Identifying Mindy is an early step in the process. Now it’s time to get justice for Mindy,” Highland Park Police Chief James McMahon said. “It’s been more than 27 years since her murder, but I believe someone has information that could lead to the arrest of her killer.”

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children collaborated with police and prosecutors to identify the body. The remains were exhumed in 2015 for forensic testing through DNA, but no matches were found.

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Earlier this year, the case was submitted to private forensic investigators and a nonprofit DNA testing lab. A reliable DNA data file was developed and genetic genealogists took over from there, developing the tip that would lead to a name.

Carol Schweitzer, manager of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s forensic services unit, credited the organization’s partners.

“No matter how long it takes, we know that the answers can be found,” Schweitzer said.

Clevidence’s family, through a statement released by the center, asked for privacy and expressed gratitude for all the efforts to help “get one step closer in finding out what happened to Mindy and ultimately finding justice for her.”

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