A headstone in an upstate New York cemetery currently reads, "Lest we forget the unidentified girl." After 35 years, that girl is finally getting a name: Tammy Jo Alexander. As the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports, Alexander was a Florida teen who went missing between 1977 and 1979 and whose body was found in a cornfield in New York's Livingston County in November 1979. Alexander would have been 16 at the time, though authorities were never able to identify the body. She had been shot twice. The break in the case came last summer, when an old friend got to wondering about Alexander and tracked down her half-sister, reports People. After they spoke, a missing person's report on Alexander was finally filed—apparently the first one in the case.
With that crucial step in place, investigators in the two states eventually matched up their cases, and a DNA sample from a relative confirmed Alexander's identity. Authorities still don't know who killed her or how she ended up 1,200 miles from home. A sister says Alexander ran away to escape a "volatile," drug-addicted mother, reports WHAM-TV, and she also insists that the family filed a missing person's report when she disappeared. Officials, however, say there is no record of it. "Her half-sister had always assumed that their mother had filed a missing person's report," says Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty. "But she never did. This poor girl went missing 35 years ago and no one looked for her." (Read more cold cases stories.)