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CAMPBELL COUNTY, Tenn. – Tennessee authorities armed with genetic genealogy have identified a young girl whose skeletal remains were found near an abandoned strip mine in 1985.

Tracy Sue Walker was 15 when she vanished from her hometown of Lafayette, Indiana, in 1978. Her skeletal remains were found April 3, 1985, in the Big Wheel Gap area of rural Elk Valley.

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, she had been dead for between one and four years when she was found.

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“Forensic anthropologists determined that the skeletal remains were those of a white female, likely between the age of 10 and 15,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials said. “However, investigators could not determine her identity, and she became affectionately known as ‘Baby Girl.’”

Decades passed. In 2007, a sample of the girl’s remains was sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, or UNTCHI, in the hopes of learning who she was. A DNA profile was developed, but authorities were still unable to identify the girl.

Hoping their luck would someday change, cold case investigators entered her genetic profile into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, as well as the database of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

In 2013, a TBI agent and intelligence analyst revisited the case, but it would be nearly a decade before the investigators received a break, authorities said.

That break came when state investigators, working with the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Department, sent a sample of the girl’s remains to Othram Inc., a Texas-based genetic laboratory.

Othram has gained renown over the past few years for its work helping cold case detectives across the country solve violent crimes.

“There, scientists conducted forensic genetic genealogy testing,” TBI officials said. “In June, Othram provided a possible relative connected to the child who was living in Indiana.”

When detectives contacted the potential relative, they confirmed that the family had a teen member who went missing from the Lafayette area in 1978. It was Tracy Walker.

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Tennessee agents and officers of the Lafayette Police Department were able to obtain DNA from the family member. They entered the genetic profile into CODIS, and it matched that of the long-missing girl.

Authorities are now trying to determine how and when Walker died.

Anyone with information about this case, or about individuals Tracy may have been with before her death, should call investigators at 1-800-TBI-FIND.