Technology offers shred of hope to ID missing girl |

Technology offers shred of hope to ID missing girl

Every spring, when snow melts and hikers hit the trails, there is a possibility that the remains of Jaycee Lee Dugard will be found. If and when that happens, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department will be ready because of a state Senate bill that took effect in 2001.

Jaycee, an 11-year-old South Lake Tahoe girl, was kidnapped on the morning of June 10, 1991, while walking to her school bus stop. She was pulled, kicking and screaming, into a steel-gray sedan that vanished without a trace.

Because of the amount of time since the abduction, authorities aren’t holding out much hope that Jaycee is still alive.

Senate Bill 1818 became law January 2001. It requires the California Department of Justice to begin collecting voluntary DNA samples from family members of high-risk missing person cases.

El Dorado County sheriff’s Detective Steve Fleischmann will travel to Riverside, Calif., to use a cotton swab, similar to a large Q-Tip, and swipe the inside cheek of Jaycee’s parents.

Fleischmann will also ask Jaycee’s mother, Terry Probyn, if she has any of Jaycee’s baby teeth.

“If Jaycee Dugard is ever found, we would be able to confirm her identity” even if it is 40 years from now, Fleischmann said.

After the short process is completed, Fleischmann will travel back north and drop the DNA off at an $18 million DNA laboratory in Richmond that opened in April.

The hope is that when unidentified human remains come to the attention of law enforcement, no matter how many years from now, the DNA laboratory will have the means to prove or disprove it’s Jaycee, Fleischmann said.

DNA is used to identify a person after identification cards, fingerprints and dental records are checked but not considered useful. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is found in the nucleus of the human cell. It contains genetic code that determines hereditary makeup.

Mitochondrial DNA is found outside the nucleus and can survive severe environments better than nuclear DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from one’s mother and thus matching samples can be obtained from the maternal side of the family.

— Contact William Ferchland at

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