DNA Doe Project identifies 2004 Phoenix hit-and-run victim

She was only known as ‘Broadway St. Phoenix Doe” for nearly 20 years
A woman was unidentified for nearly two decades after a hit-and-run crash but thanks to the work of DNA DOe Project, she has a name.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 7:58 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Another victim has her name back, thanks to DNA and genetic genealogy. Recently, the nonprofit DNA Doe Project solved the mystery of a 2004 Phoenix Jane Doe, a hit-and-run victim. It means a tremendous amount to the career detective who spent years trying to solve this case.

The saying goes “Put a face with a name” but in forensics, sometimes detectives can spend hours looking at a victim’s face with no idea who they are. “You’re born with a name. It’s the first thing you get in your life, and it should be the one thing you get to keep when you die. And these people were denied that,” said now-retired Phoenix Police Detective Stuart Somershoe.

Over his decades with the Phoenix Police Department, Somershoe spent years on missing persons cases, a long list of Jane and John Does. One of those is the 2004 hit-and-run victim. It’s a case Somershoe sent to the DNA Doe Project. “She was formerly known as Broadway St. Phoenix Jane Doe,” said Cairenn Binder, an investigative genetic genealogist with the DNA Doe Project.

DNA Doe Project is a California-based nonprofit that has employees and volunteers around the world working on cases. Broadway St. Phoenix Doe was a difficult case. “She was a victim of a hit-and-run accident and all those years we didn’t know who she was. We ran her fingerprints, we had composites made with no leads coming in,” said Somershoe.

“We had been working on this case for years and what finally cracked it open is that Amelia’s niece took a DNA test with family tree DNA,” said Binder. That one DNA test led to a match, and Jane Doe was Amelia Munoz Loera, a 41-year-old from Mexico. Amelia became a statistic that still haunts Somershoe. “The numbers are staggering. You have 40,000 unidentified bodies in the United States. Arizona has one of the highest in the nation – we have over 2,000 unidentified bodies here,” said Somershoe.

Somershoe says Amelia’s case is the sixth identification the DNA Doe Project has made with Phoenix PD alone, though they work on others in Arizona. He’s so passionate about their purpose that he donates money to them personally, as their work is paying off worldwide. “They’ve identified over 100 Jane and John Does in the last five years,” said Binder.

Amelia now has her name back. The hope is that Somershoe’s other unidentified cases will soon find that same fate. “You’re kind of a caretaker for this person until you can get them back to their family. So it’s very gratifying to finally say hey, this is who this person was, these are the people who loved them, and now they have an answer,” said Somershoe.

These DNA and genetic genealogy companies only have access to Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch as databases, but you can help! You can put your DNA in those databases, but if you already did ancestry.com or 23andMe, you can upload your results for free to those two databases and you could potentially help solve an unsolved crime.

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