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Skeletal remains of ‘Baby Girl’ found in Tennessee 37 years ago finally identified as those of a missing Indiana teen

The remains of Tracy Sue Walker were identified using forensic genetic genealogy testing. Questions remain about how she vanished from Indiana and ended up in Tennessee.
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The remains of a teenage girl found more than three decades ago in Tennessee have finally been identified with the help of forensic genetic genealogy testing, officials announced Tuesday.

The skeletal remains were discovered April 3, 1985, in Campbell County, Tennessee, and authorities believed they belonged to a white female, likely age 10 to 15, said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, or TBI.

As she couldn’t be identified, investigators nicknamed her “Baby Girl.  

Nearly 40 years later, the mystery behind Baby Girl's identity was finally cracked — revealed as Tracy Sue Walker, born in June 1963, the TBI announced in a release.

But her case is still shrouded in mystery. Walker disappeared from the Lafayette, Indiana, area in 1978, when she was about 15. Investigators are looking into what took her to Tennessee and the circumstances leading up to her death. 

Image: Tracy Sue Walker
Tracy Sue Walker.Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Walker's case went cold for years, but new strides were made thanks to developments in DNA technology.

In 2007, a sample of the Baby Girl remains was submitted to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, and a DNA profile was created for her in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS, as well as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Then in 2013, a TBI agent and intelligence analyst decided to revisit the case and look for leads to determine her real name.

A break in the case didn’t come until this year, when a sample of the child's remains was sent to Othram, a private lab in Texas that conducts forensic genetic genealogy testing and has aided in a number of cold cases.

The lab provided a possible relative connected to Baby Girl, who was living in Indiana. 

Using the data, the TBI found potential family members of Baby Girl in Lafayette, Indiana, and made contact.

The contacts "confirmed they had a family member go missing from that area in 1978," the TBI said.

The TBI worked with Lafayette police to "obtain familiar DNA standards for possible siblings of the girl,” which were entered into CODIS, the release said. It's not clear what those "DNA standards" were.

This week, the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification positively identified the remains as belonging to Walker. 

Her case isn’t yet solved. The TBI is asking for the public's help with information about the case or tips about people Walker may have known to help solve what happened to her.

CORRECTION (Aug. 31, 2022, 9:35 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the name of an agency. It is the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, not the Tennessee Bureau of Information.