Remains of Homicide Victim Found in New Mexico 37 Years Ago Has Been Identified is Kansas Missing Teen

Image of Dorothy Harrison
Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department

16-year-old Dorothy Harrison called her family in the late summer of 1984, and that was the last time they heard from her.

The body of a homicide victim that was found 37 years ago in New Mexico has finally been identified as a missing Kansas teenager, officials say.

After DNA testing, authorities with the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office were able to identify the victim as 16-year-old Dorothy Harrison, according to officials.

Investigators have been able to piece together some of the events surrounding the teenager's disappearance now that they are aware of her name and have spoken to her relatives in Kansas.

According to a statement written to the press, on Thursday, July 25, 1984, at around 5 p.m., Harrison left her Wichita home. She was seen by a sibling getting into a large, long, tan vehicle with two unidentified older girls. She was reported missing by her family.

The statement revealed that authorities learned Harrison had oftentimes left her home and wouldn’t return for weeks during the end of the summer, and that law enforcement would bring her home, though she would constantly leave again. Authorities said Harrison always stayed in Kansas.

But, later that year in August, the family received a call from Harrison saying she was in Los Angeles, around the time of the 1984 Summer Olympics, according to the statement. Then weeks later around late August or early September, Harrison called her family saying she was in El Paso, Texas, and that she was on her way back home to Wichita, Kansas, officials said.

According to the statement that was the last time the family had heard from Harrison.

On March 10, 1985, hunters discovered her bones in a small grave near Upham, New Mexico. Upham is located roughly 50 miles north of El Paso.

The statement says the remains were believed to be a white female estimated to have been between 16-19 years old at the time of her death and about 5 foot 2 inches tall with “blonde to light brown hair.” The body, which was unknown at the time, was found wearing a sports jersey with ¾ length sleeves. “Wilson” was imprinted across the shir with a large “W” on a white background.

In the initial stages of the investigation, it was determined that the female likely died 3-6 months prior to being found, according to the statement. 

Authorities estimate Harrison was killed between September 10, 1984, to January 10, 1985.

Over the next 37 years, the identity of the female remained unknown as investigators continued to pursue leads, including looking at numerous missing persons’ cases. 

But, all the leads led to dead ends.

On March 10, 2021, the case of the unidentified remains was assigned to Detective Melissa Agullo with the hope that new technology and investigative tools could lead to the answers in the decades-long case.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) contacted DASO to offer DNA resources for unidentified cases while Detective Agullo was going through case files from the past three decades.

The left femur bone was given to Astrea Forensics in cooperation with the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office and the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator. About 155 mg. of bone powder was used to extract DNA.

The procedure was successful, and Innovative Forensics Investigations received the DNA findings to build out a genealogical family tree.

The collaborative work led to answers and after more than three decades, the remains were able to be identified as 16-year-old Dorothy Harrison.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart told KSNW that the news has been hard on the teenager’s family.

The outlet reported that Harrison’s mother and five siblings reside in Kansas, though they do not wish for their names to be made public.

“Dorothy was a typical teenager; she was only 16 years old when this horrific crime happened to her. Like most teens, she was sometimes unhappy at home and easily influenced. She left home with some people she thought were her friends, and we never saw her again,” Harrison’s family wrote in a statement.

According to KSNW, the family is working on getting Harrison’s remains returned to Kansas.

The sheriff’s office has classified the teen’s death as a homicide, but they have not determined how she died.

“We hope the media exposure of this case will help obtain any new leads in potentially solving this homicide with the new positive identification,” Agullo told Inside Edition Digital. 

“Additionally, it shows awareness to other surrounding agencies across the U.S. of the resources, technology, and grant funding that is out there to help identify these missing and unidentified person’s cold cases.”

Authorities request that if anyone has information about Harrison’s death or encountered with her while she was away, to contact the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office at 575-525-1911.

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