Homicide victim now identified after 30 years; Investigation continues, what happened to Shawna Beth Garber

Joplin News First

Cold case homicide from 1990 continues...

McDONALD COUNTY, Mo. — The McDonald County Sheriff’s office responded December 2, 1990, to an old abandoned house on Oscar Talley Road in reference to human remains, including a skull. At the scene the remains of a badly decomposed body was located.

McDonald County Sheriff’s Office, Coroner’s Office, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Benton County Arkansas Sheriff’s Office, and the University of Arkansas anthropologists were all involved in the original crime scene.

A pathologist estimated the deceased was a white female in their mid to late 20’s.

Sheriff Keeling investigated 220 inquires, however the case went cold.

Grace’s” description was entered into the NCIC system as an unidentified body. New systems came along over the years. She was entered into, NamUs, CODIS, and her DNA entered into CODIS and filed with the University of North Texas Center for Human Remains.

Det. Lori Howard continued the investigation in 2009 to create an image of “Grace”. Recruiting the help of a facial reconstruction expert and FBI instructor they created a likeness. Det. Howard was told only by the “Grace of God” one could find out who she was. After that the name “Grace” stuck.

Sheriff’s over the past 30 years have worked on the case; Schlessman, Evenson, and Hall.

From 1990 to 2020, the MCSO fielded calls from people from coast to coast regarding who “Grace” might be. The Sheriff’s Office followed up on all leads using dental records and limited DNA to investigate possible matches.

In Sept. 2020, Sheriff Hall was contacted by Othram Inc., a forensic laboratory that can identify victims, find missing persons, and reveal perpetrators of crimes.

Othram and Sheriff Hall decided to use advanced DNA testing to identify “Grace”. Othram was sent skeletal remains and they extracted DNA and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to build a DNA profile that could be used to find distant relatives.

To raise funding for the case the website DNASolves.com was utilized.

Some funding came from the Southeast Missouri State University Anthropology Department. They requested to study the skeletal remains of “Grace” so students could conduct anthropological analysis. By allowing the analysis and study, they helped fund the casework.

In Jan 2021 the Sheriff’s Office received information from Othram Inc. that there were candidate relatives identified for “Grace”. These candidates were identified through genealogy research performed at Othram Inc.

Lt. Hall contacted a person on the genealogical tree provided by Othram Inc. Ms. Danielle Pixler stated she had a half-sister, Shawna Garber, that had been in foster care in Garnett, Kansas and then went back into state care. Danielle did not know what happened with Shawna after she left foster care. Danielle stated that she had been looking for Shawna for over 28 years.

In February 2021 Danielle had agreed to contribute a DNA sample. The Topeka Kansas Police Department took the sample sample. Othram Inc. then used a rapid familial test.

March 29, 2021 Lt. Hall received a call from Othram Inc. stating the DNA from Danielle Pixler was a match to “Grace” as a half-sibling. And thus Shawna Garber was her only half sibling that is missing.

Grace has now been identified as Shawna Beth Garber – born March 1, 1968.

The investigation still has a long way to go. Now investigators will attempt to trace the whereabouts of Shawna, her acquaintances during that period and what might have happened to her.

Lt. Hall confirms to us, due to the way the body was discovered in 1990 they are investigating homicide.

  • VICTIM WAS WEARING
  • Blue jean coat
  • white t-shirt
  • “Lee” brand blue jeans
  • White “Fitness” brand hi-top tennis shoes, size 7 1/2

If you have any information regarding Shawna Beth Garber, 22 years old in late 1990, or anyone who might have known her, contact Lt. Michael S. Hall, McDonald County Sheriff’s office at Pineville, Missouri, 417-223-4318.

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