Decades-old missing persons case becomes homicide investigation

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Through DNA technology, skeletal remains discovered in a remote field in Pinal County in 1988 have been positively identified as an Arizona woman who disappeared more than 25 years ago.

Julie Grubaugh, 25, was reported missing by her out-of-state family on Nov. 27, 1986. Grubaugh had recently moved from Michigan to Arizona with her two small children and her ex-husband.

According to police, Grubaugh's ex-husband claimed that he dropped her off at the downtown Greyhound bus station on Nov. 2, 1986. That was the last time anybody saw or heard from her.

The missing-person case remained open through the years, but now it's a homicide investigation.

The remains eventually identified as Grubaugh were discovered in April 1988. Despite the Eloy Police Department's investigation, the remains went unidentified for 25 years.

Just last year, the Cold Case Unit of the Phoenix Police Department's Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit obtained DNA samples from Grubaugh's surviving family. Those samples were entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, called CODIS.

"CODIS was designed to compare a target DNA record against the DNA records contained in the database," according to the FBI's CODIS website.

DNA from the Pinal County skeletal remains also were entered into CODIS. The system found a match in November.

Investigators knew they had finally found Grubaugh, but they still do not know what happened to her.

The Phoenix Police Department assumed the investigation and is treating Grubaugh's death as a homicide.

If you know anything about this case, please contact the Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit at 602-534-2121 or call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS (948-6377) or 1-800343-TIPS (8477).