Shirley Sempell, 15, disappeared in 1976 after telling her mother she and some friends were headed to the Florida Keys. Her remains were found nine months later, but were not identified until last month.
Late last year, the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children, which had recently received funds to start a special unit to deal with long-standing, unsolved cases, did an age progression computer simulation of Sempell. It came up as a possible match for a photograph done from a facial reconstruction of the unidentified remains. That led to mitochondrial DNA testing that showed a match. Investigators also tried to extract nuclear DNA from Sempell’s bones for a more conclusive DNA test, but were unsuccessful. They decided in July to declare that the remains were Sempell’s.