Colleen Orsborn, Body Identified as Colleen
For nearly three decades, the lower jaw of an unidentified young woman was stored at the Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner's office. The case file sat in a closet.
But recently, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia received some encouraging news.
The bit of bone and teeth she sent to an FBI laboratory for DNA testing in 2007 had received a hit. DNA linked the bones discovered in Orange County in 1984 to the family of a missing Daytona Beach teenager who vanished that same year.
Finally, the bones might have a name: Colleen Orsborn.
The mitochondrial DNA taken from the mandible matched DNA taken from the missing girl's sisters.
"It's not a confirmatory match yet," Garavaglia said Wednesday.. "There's a really good chance that it's her."
Since the hit, police have sent off more evidence to the lab for further testing. Hair samples collected by Daytona Beach Police Department that were stored in the evidence locker will soon be tested.
"We are looking for more circumstantial evidence, or the holy grail of getting nuclear [DNA]," Garavaglia said.
Orsborn went missing on March 15, 1984 from her home in Daytona Beach. She missed the bus and ditched school.
About three weeks later, a fisherman found the decomposing body of a young woman in a shallow grave in Orange County.
A medical examiner at the time determined the body found and the missing Daytona Beach girl were separate cases.
In 2001, Orsborn's family received what appeared to be a confession letter. They told the Orlando Sentinel that for a long time they thought she had run away. The letter was later determined to be a hoax.
Orsborn's disappearance has been linked to serial killer Christopher Wilder, who was killed during a police standoff in New Hampshire in 1984. He's believed to have killed eight women between February and April 1984. He tortured several others.
Daytona Beach Sgt. Bill Rhodes, who oversees cold cases, said the DNA discovery is a step in the right direction.
"Now we are working toward making sure it is in fact 100 percent her," Rhodes said. "At this point, we are just trying to give her family some closure."
Last edited by Starless; 02-02-2011 at 05:58 PM.
Re: Colleen Orsborn, Body Identified as Colleen
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- When 15-year-old Colleen Orsborn missed her bus, ditched school, grabbed a pink bikini and left home on March 15, 1984, DNA science was still young.
When a fisherman found a knee poking out of the ground near an Orange County lake a few days later - faded pink nail polish left on the body's fingers and toes - there was still no DNA database.
For almost three decades, Colleen and the girl found in Orange County remained separate mysteries.
They shouldn't have.
"It's a tragedy that somebody ruled her out," Orlando's District 9 Medical Examiner Jan Garavaglia said Friday.
Garavaglia, also known as "Dr. G" on the Discovery Fit & Health television series, confirmed that a DNA sample from the long-unidentified girl by the lake has been matched to Colleen, the pretty Campbell Junior High eighth-grader who police believe was one of the first victims of serial killer Christopher Wilder.
"It would certainly give us some sense of peace," Colleen's older sister Margaret Carroll, who still lives in Volusia County, said of the new activity on the case. "I don't know if it'll ever be over for any of us. But by all means, we'd like to know what happened to her."
Colleen left her family's beachside home on Butler Boulevard the same day Wilder, a 39-year-old Australian millionaire who raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway, checked into a Howard Johnson hotel in Daytona Beach.
At the time, two women Wilder knew - including an ex-girlfriend - had disappeared.
Colleen's family initially wondered if she simply ran away from home. Then weeks passed. By the time Wilder died in a skirmish with state troopers in New Hampshire - about a month after Colleen disappeared - police believed he was responsible for 11 abductions and four slayings. Today, they know he killed at least seven women and one teenage girl he abducted at a Las Vegas beauty pageant.
Those eight didn't include three survivors Wilder spared or left for dead. It also didn't include Colleen, who police were sure was his victim.
"I'm almost certain she's a victim of Wilder. He was in town the day she turned up missing," Larry Lewis, a retired Daytona Beach police detective who worked the case, said Tuesday. "They'll never know who did it because old Wilder killed himself."
When the girl's body surfaced in Orange County, Lewis said, police checked into whether it was Colleen. He sent the Medical Examiner's Office an X-ray of one of Colleen's old injuries - a broken arm - to see if it matched the body.
"He said, 'No, no, no, we don't have any evidence of a break there,'" Lewis said of the response. "We had ruled her out because of the broken bone; I'm pretty sure that was the biggest part of it."
Garavaglia, who took over the examiner's office in 2004, said notations in the case file abruptly stopped sometime after that.
The match came in March 2010, six years after newcomer Garavaglia sent DNA from all the agency's unidentified bodies to a national database. A mitochondrial DNA sample - the type inherited from the maternal side - matched samples taken from two of Colleen's sisters.
When, despite the match, the case still wasn't moving by December, Garavaglia asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into it.
"Once we got the FDLE involved, then they were able to light a fire under some people," said Garavaglia about her cases.
The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) match alone is not enough to officially identify the body. Police confirmed recently they sent a hair sample - Lewis collected a hair brush from Colleen's home shortly after she disappeared - for further testing. Garavaglia said in general, "other circumstantial evidence" is needed to support a mtDNA match.
"I would say pending further DNA testing, it's a pretty good bet that it's her," Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said, also confirming the only suspect in Colleen's death is Wilder.
Colleen's parents have died since her disappearance. Her sister Carroll said the family tried to believe she was alive somewhere but after so much time, "it's kind of hard to keep that path.
"I certainly would have liked to have known that 27 years ago," said Carroll, 50. "As much as it gives us some peace, it also makes us very angry that for 27 years ... It's been way too long. It's changed our family like nothing else could."
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