Pamela Darlene Young, a petite 27-year-old woman from the Blue Ridge Mountains who relocated to Texas and fell out of touch with her family, was never reported missing after her last known sighting in 1998.
Her remains, known only as "Gregg County Jane Doe 2002" for more than 20 years, have finally been identified by the DNA Doe Project and the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office.
Archeologists out collecting soil samples found a human skull and partial skeletal remains in an open field near Swamp City Road and Highway 135 outside Liberty City, Texas, on May 21, 2002, according to the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office.
The medical examiner determined that the remains belonged to a White or Hispanic woman between the ages of 16 and 30, and that they had been in the field for at least two years. There were few other leads.
In 2013, investigators returned to the case, sending her skull to be scanned for 3D reconstruction, and learned the victim had a cleft palate. In 2019, the sheriff’s office turned to the DNA Doe Project, an all-volunteer group that uses genetic genealogy research techniques to help identify the unidentified.
Using mitochondrial DNA samples, the DNA Doe Project traced her direct maternal line back to a family on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, Kevin Lord, the DNA Doe Project’s director of lab and agency logistics and a team lead on the case, told Fox News Digital.
DNA Doe learned that the family had a daughter who had moved to Texas, and that daughter had a cleft palate.
Further research found no records of her since the late 1990s.
"We went to try proof of life and could not find any trace of her after around 1998 or so," Lord said.
The team had found a likely identity for Jane Doe -- Pamela Darlene Young. They presented the name to the sheriff’s investigators, as well as possible next of kin.
"In talking to them, they were able to confirm, based on the circumstances and everything, that it did look like it was her," Lord said.
She had never been reported missing, so earlier partial DNA samples were never a match with anyone in the government’s Combined DNA Index System database, Lord added.
The Gregg County Sheriff’s Office said a person of interest had been identified – but has been dead since 2017.
"At this time there are no other leads in this case," Chief Deputy Craig Harrington said in a statement. "It is not known exactly how Ms. Young came to be in the open field, and no cause of death was ever determined."
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s criminal investigation division or Gregg County Crime Stoppers.