Facial approximation made by the FBI in 2012 from skull photographs and dental radiographs.

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. and CHATHAM, Va. ? On Aug. 6, 1992, the body of an unidentified teenage girl was located in the Sonoran Desert 30 miles east of Phoenix in Apache Junction, Arizona. Decades later, forensic investigators would tie this girl, whose identity remains unknown to this day, to Pittsylvania County.

The unidentified female will be referred to in this story as Jane Doe.

Stephanie Bourgeois, a crime scene technician for the Apache Junction Police Department, told the Star-Tribune that Jane's genealogy suggests that she has relatives who live or lived in Virginia, "especially Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties."

A body found

Shirt found on Jane Doe's body.

Pants found on Jane Doe's body.

On that scorching summer day in 1992, a local resident was walking his dog through the desert south of U.S. Highway 60 and west of Idaho Road in Apache Junction when he stumbled across Jane's body. Old Farmer's Almanac harks 104-degree heat that day, and Jane had already been deceased for three to five weeks. Her remains were described as "unrecognizable" and "mummified."

"That area at the time was just open desert," Bourgeois said. "That highway, the U.S. 60, goes past this desert area so big trucks can get off. Back then in 1992, the highway didn?t come out there. It was a very, very rural desert area. Just desert for miles."

The man who reported Jane's body to police was a seasonal resident getting an early start on his annual southerly migration.

"We have a lot of snowbirds that come to the desert and walk around," Bourgeois said. "The gentleman that located her remains was interviewed and determined not to be a suspect."

Her age at death is estimated to be around 16 years old. She was 5-foot-1 with brown hair held in a ponytail by an elastic band. She was discovered wearing blue cut-off denim pants and a white T-shirt with soccer balls on the front and back. Her pants, bra and underwear, although inside-out, were fastened and in place.

She was also found wearing a yellow metal ring with a nugget design on her left ring finger.

Ties to Pittsylvania County

In 2018, Apache Junction Police Department solicited the help of DNA Doe Project, a California not-for-profit corporation that has made identifications in more than 50 cases nationwide involving unidentified bodies.

Franchesca Werden, a representative of the organization, told the Star-Tribune that seven surnames tie Jane to Southside Virginia.

"The detective that was on the case basically said, 'We?ve had this case since 1992 and we haven?t been able to identify her,'" Werden said.

Jane was 50 percent Hispanic, 25 percent Black and 25 percent White. Her paternal Black side is what ties her to Pittsylvania County.

"I don?t specialize in the genealogy of Virginia and Maryland, but I know that people with roots in those areas tend to go really far back," Werden said. "A lot of families have been in the area since Virginia was a colony, or they?ve traced their genealogy to the 1700s."

Werden identified the names Chandler, Dixon, Graves, Lovelace and Patrick in Jane's family tree as those suggesting a tie to her Black family in Southern Virginia.

A mystery relative

Authorities to date have made contact with one definite blood relative of Jane's and identified another who, if he is still alive, is 68 years old. Bourgeois said the search for this man is ongoing in Southern Virginia as well as Louisiana, Mexico and Germany.

"On Jane's paternal side, we have made contact with the first or second cousin," Bourgeois said. "We found out that Jane is related on that person's paternal side. That person's father has about ten children, two of which are half-siblings, and Jane is related to those half-siblings. This is where we're at a standstill."

Further facial approximation made by the FBI in 2012 from skull photographs and dental radiographs.

Authorities obtained the birth certificate of one half-sibling: Bernhard Neumann. He was born in 1953 in Darmstadt-Eberstadt, Germany.

Jane's cousin told Bourgeois that her father was in the military had Bernhard while stationed in Germany.

"We are trying to locate Bernhard," Bourgeois said. "His mother's name is Else Neumann, but she is probably deceased. I don't know if she stayed in Germany or came over to the U.S. He may have even been adopted out and his name is not Bernhard anymore."

Neumann is not a suspect, but rather a person Apache Junction Police need to identify if they have any hope of one day identifying Jane.

"If anyone in Pittsylvania County knows of a Bernhard Neumann, that's the only thing we have to go on," Bourgeois said. "That's where we're stuck."

Waiting for answers

Werden said Southside Virginia residents can help the case by putting their own family tree or at-home DNA test results online if they feel comfortable doing so, especially if that tree contains one of the seven surnames tying Jane to Pittsylvania County.

"Most families of a Doe have been waiting decades for answers," Werden said. "It is a very bittersweet thing when identifications are made."

Although almost nothing is known about this young woman who would now be in her late 40s, one piece of evidence dating back to 1992 provides a tiny window into her teenage life.

In her pocket, along with a corroded quarter and penny, contained a Phoenix Transit System token inscribed with the words, "Valid for student fare."