Durham PD Partners with Othram to Identify a Young Woman Found in a Storage Unit in 2016

The woman, now identified as Melissa “Missy” Ann Poitra, had been missing since 2005

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Published May 05, 2021
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Summary

Investigators were shocked to find the remains of a young woman in storage unit that was being cleaned out in October 2016. The discovery was made at a self-storage unit on Carpenter Fletcher Road in Durham County, North Carolina. Skeletal remains were found inside of a plastic container that was stowed away inside. It was unclear at the time how long the remains may have been hidden in that location. However, prior to their discovery, the unit was rented by the same person since 2010. The death is presumed suspicious, however, there is little evidence pointing to the identity of the victim or how she ended up in the storage unit.

Dental records were taken with the possibility of being compared. In February of 2019, composite sketches from the FBI were developed of the Jane Doe in hopes that someone may recognize her and come forward with information. The sketches depict what the victim may have looked like: a young woman with shoulder length hair, and a slight space between her front teeth. The sketches were then broadcast in the news and posted on missing persons sites in hope that someone would recognize her and reveal who she was. Unfortunately, there were no viable leads.

In 2020, the Othram team learned of this case and offered to assist the Durham Police Department with the use of advanced DNA testing and forensic genealogy to establish an identification of, or find the nearest kin to the woman. A DNASolves Crowdfunding campaign was used to offset some of the costs. The Durham Police Department funded the remainder of the costs in an attempt to expedite identification. Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to produce a genealogical profile and then the research phase began. There were few matches to the unknown and none of the identified matches were closer than second cousin. Genetic and genealogical analysis suggested the woman was from the Turtle Mountain band of the Ojibwe (Chippewa) people. Othram returned candidate relationships to Durham PD and their investigation continued. Durham PD then worked with the family of the unknown woman, to get DNA swabs to confirm the identification. The identification was confirmed using KinSNP™ and also through traditional STR testing.

Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact the Durham Police Department at (919) 560-4440. This case is logged in NamUs as UP15960.

About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at recovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. Visit dnasolves.com to learn how anyone can make a difference in helping solve the next cold case.

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