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McDonald County officials plan to release details about 34-year-old cold case Thursday

Mar. 20—McDonald County authorities say they will be releasing details Thursday about a 34-year-old cold case that has been solved.

Sheriff Robert Evenson, and Detectives Lorie Howard and Rhonda Wise will release information regarding the case of a slaying victim once dubbed "Grace Doe," who has since been identified as Shauna Garber.

A suspect in her slaying has been determined, and details of the crime and the current status of the investigation will be revealed.

On Dec. 2, 1990, a couple came upon decomposed remains in the carport of a vacant farmhouse along Oscar Talley Road in McDonald County.

The woman had been hog-tied, with bindings about her legs. She appeared to have been in her 20s or early 30s. The pathologist believed she may have died as much as a month or two before her remains were found.

Investigators turned up a witness at the time who recalled hearing a woman scream in that vicinity on Halloween night. An autopsy suggested she may have been raped and strangled, but no definitive cause of death was determined at the time.

Her dental work was charted, but all efforts to identify her and find out how she was killed came to dead ends. She gained the nickname "Grace Doe" when Howard recruited a facial reconstruction expert in 2009 to develop a photographic likeness of her through magnetic resonance imaging of her skull. Howard said she was told when she went public with the pictures that it would be "only by the grace of God" that the victim would ever be identified.

The pictures and publicity generated a number of leads over the ensuing years, none of which led to any matches of dental records or DNA.

Finally, in 2021, the McDonald County Sheriff's Department announced that Grace Doe had been identified through advanced DNA testing conducted by Othram Inc., a state-of-the-art DNA laboratory in Houston.

The remains turned out to be those of Garber, a 22-year-old woman who had been in foster care in Garnett, Kansas, as a child and was last believed to have been returned to the custody of the state of Missouri.

Howard said Garber had a "tough life," including being set on fire with kerosene by her mother when she was 5 years old. She underwent multiple surgeries and a failed adoption before eventually aging out of the foster care system in Kansas.

"What I like to say about Shauna is that she was invisible from Day 1," Howard said.

She had a half brother who wrote to her, told her that he loved her and invited her to live with him, Howard said. But "true to form, those letters were never given to Shauna," she said.

"When she aged out, she didn't think she had a person in the world," Howard said. "This young lady, I say she's invisible, in that no one took a photo of her."

There is one picture the detectives found, when Garber was 3 years old, but that is it.

"No one, and I mean no one, has a photo of this young lady," Howard said.

"I said when I started this 15 or 20 years ago, I promised, 'I won't give up on you.' ... And that is exactly what I meant."