Florida remains excavated from mobile home park could be linked to teenage girl who went missing 20 years ago

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Florida remains excavated from mobile home park could be linked to teenage girl who went missing 20 years ago

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Florida law enforcement officials say they believe they have found the remains of a 16-year-old girl who went missing nearly 20 years ago.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said detectives and forensic units uncovered human remains at an Ormond Beach mobile home park on Wednesday, which could be those of 16-year-old Autumn McClure who was reported missing in 2004.

“There really never is a ‘cold case’,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said during a media briefing on Thursday. “The men and women that are assigned to our Major Case Unit and all of our investigative units, that’s what they understand.”

The sheriff’s office said McClure was reported missing from her grandmother’s home in Ormond Beach on May 10, 2004.

Detectives learned early in the investigation that McClure’s grandmother received letters and phone calls from McClure saying she was fine and would come home after she turned 18.

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Autumn McClure

Autumn McClure went missing in 2004, and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office says it may have found her remains buried under a trailer in Ormond Beach, Fla. (Volusia County Sheriff’s Office)

Investigators also learned McClure was staying with a woman she worked with at Winn-Dixie, as well as the woman’s boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Donley. The two lived in the Shady Oaks mobile home park, and they told investigators McClure stayed with them only for a short time.

Over the next several years, the investigation continued, which included another interview with Donley’s girlfriend in 2018, when she denied knowing anything about the teenager’s disappearance.

Three years later, the sheriff’s office received a tip claiming Donley and/or his girlfriend were responsible for the death of a teenage girl in Volusia County. Investigators followed up with the tipster and were provided with additional evidence.

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Ormond Beach, Florida excavation site

Autumn McClure went missing in 2004, and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office says it may have found her remains buried under a trailer in Ormond Beach, Fla. (Volusia County Sheriff’s Office)

In 2022, detectives interviewed the girlfriend again and provided her with a letter of immunity to get more information.

During the interview, the sheriff’s office said, the girlfriend indicated she saw Donley kill McClure in the trailer before he threatened to do the same to her if she told anyone.

Over the course of 20 years since McClure disappeared, the property the trailer sat on changed hands several times, and a new trailer was placed there in 2021.

The sheriff’s office was able to have the trailer removed, along with the concrete it sat on, to allow for the excavation of the property this week.

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Ormond Beach, Florida excavation site

Autumn McClure went missing in 2004, and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office says it may have found her remains buried under a trailer in Ormond Beach, Fla. (Volusia County Sheriff’s Office)

Dr. Lerah Sutton and her team from the University of Florida’s Maples Center for Forensic Medicine assisted in the excavation, which included the logistics, planning and deployment of ground-penetrating radar to find areas of interest.

By Thursday, about 99% of the human remains had been recovered from the site, though matching the remains with McClure was still pending.

Still, the sheriff’s office has notified McClure’s family of the discovery.

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The sheriff’s office said Donley died at the age of 49 in 2022, therefore he cannot be prosecuted for the crime if there is in fact a match.

“I’m hoping to God that when he took his last breath on May 26 of 2022, that maybe he had a vision of where the hell he was headed,” Chitwood said.

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