Positive Identification of Child Made in Florida
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The identification of 14-year-old Nancy Grace Daniel is a long and complicated story, one that involves a number of people across several different organizations through nearly four decades. Although the story is tragic, it ultimately serves as a beacon of hope for those who remain nameless victims.
The story begins with the discovery of an unidentified young woman’s body hidden intall weeds along the shore of Lake Mann on March 12, 1977. She had been deceased for several months, and no trauma or cause of death could be identified. An autopsy was completed and the victim was reported to be a black female, between 13 and 17 years old, standing between 5 feet 1 inch and 5 feet 4 inches tall with black, braided hair. An earring and ring were found with the body, which was adjacent to a pair of white pants.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office investigated several leads, one being that the unknown remains belonged to teenager Nancy Daniel who went missing on September 6, 1976 from Orlando. Although Nancy’s disappearance was consistent with the case, the resources and tools available in the late 70s were not advanced enough to identify or exclude her as the victim.
Detective Angelo Chiota, of the Orange County Police Department, says that the years spent waiting for the right resources and technology to come along can be difficult.
“There are missed opportunities that may have occurred, and some of that evidence maybe lost forever,” Chiota says.
In November 2011, we began working on the case. In May 2013, members of Project ALERT, a team of volunteer retired law enforcement professionals, met with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. They reviewed the case file and looked back into the Nancy Daniel lead, armed with knowledge of more advanced resources and technology to recommend.
With our assistance, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office began researching the possible lead. They confirmed there was still an open missing person case for Nancy Daniel with the Orlando Police Department. According to the OPD, Nancy was last seen getting into a vehicle on Parramore Street in Orlando, only 5 miles away from Lake Mann where the unidentified female was found.
Family reference samples were collected from Nancy’s relatives for DNA testing and in November 2013, the University of North Texas completed DNA testing on Nancy’s case. A direct comparison between the unidentified female and missing person Nancy Daniel was requested.
The final lab comparison report revealed similarities between the remains and Nancy’s relatives’ DNA, but also suggested that the association was weak and additional information should be considered before ruling a positive identification.
The District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office noted many consistencies between the unidentified body and Nancy: similar physical profiles; the location the body was found compared to where Nancy was last seen; and the white pants, consistent with the pants Nancy was last seen wearing.
Based on DNA and circumstantial evidence, authorities were able to positively identify the remains as Nancy Grace Daniel on May 28, 2014, giving a name to a young woman who was nameless for nearly four decades.
Name returned, justice awaits
Now law enforcement is working to find justice for Nancy, investigating her death as a possible homicide. Detective Chiota, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, is in charge of the investigation.
“The positive identification is exciting because it gives this case continued life,” Chiota says.
Authorities are also looking at another Jane Doe case as possibly being connected to Nancy. About two months before Nancy’s body was found another female — same race and age range — was found around the same lake where Nancy’s body was found. Circumstances, physical descriptions and the time frame are consistent, leading authorities to believe they could be related cases.
Nancy Daniel’s story is still ongoing, but her family and friends are now able to hold on to a small piece of closure. Meanwhile, NCMEC and law enforcement agencies are working around the clock to bring names to the hundreds of other nameless children nationwide.
“I am grateful to have the availability and opportunity to work with all of thesegreat organizations and agencies,” Chiota says. “We can make a change — even if it’s just one.”