Body identified in 30 year long McDonald County cold case


MCDONALD COUNTY, Mo. — A three-decades long McDonald County cold case finally gets a big leap closer to closure.

A body found in an abandoned house on Oscar Talley Road on December 2nd, 1990 has been identified as Shawna Beth Garber from Topeka, Kansas.

She was born March first, 1968 — which would have made her 22 years old at the time she was killed.

The use of DNA, advanced genealogy technology, facial reconstruction software — and investigators who never gave up over the past 30 years — all led to discovering Garber’s identity.

Until now, the case had become a “Grace Doe” — named after a story involving one detective who was told it would only be “by the grace of god” they’d figure out her identity.

Fast forward to September of last year — the McDonald County Sheriff was contacted by Othram — a forensic DNA laboratory — offering to help. Lieutenant Michael Hall, who was sheriff at the time, sent the lab Grace Doe’s skeletal remains.

A process called forensic-grade genome sequencing built a DNA profile to hopefully find distant relatives. This past January, Othram called the sheriff’s office saying there were some relatives that popped up for “Grace Doe.”

A woman named Danielle Pixler, was contacted by Lieutenant Hall and confirmed she was missing a half sister. She was then asked to submit her DNA to Othram.

And it worked — Danielle Pixler was a match.

Lt. Michael Hall, McDonald County Sheriff’s Office, “Ms. Pixler, she was happy and sad at the same time, you know, with what happened. She’s still processing it. I talked to her last night, myself, and kind of let her know what was going on, that we were going to do some press stuff today and let them and let people know that, hey, we’ve got a name. Now, we’ll work the next process of trying to backtrack Shawna’s life after she became an adult. Trying to, you know, figure out where she went to, how she got to McDonald County and killed down here.”

Danielle Pixler said her sister Shawna Garber had been in foster care in Garnett, Kansas but went back into the custody of the state of Kansas. The two girls lost contact with each other as they became adults, and Shawna was never officially reported missing.

The sheriff’s office will now look deeper into what happened to Shawna Garber and hopefully solve her murder.

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