Remains Found in Durham, NC, Self-Storage Unit Provide Resolution to 16-Year Missing-Person Case

May 14, 2021

2 Min Read
Remains Found in Durham, NC, Self-Storage Unit Provide Resolution to 16-Year Missing-Person Case

The skeletal remains of a woman found in 2016 inside a self-storage unit at Ample Storage in Durham, N.C., have at long last been identified as Melissa Ann Poitra, who’s been missing since 2005. After years of frustration and dead-ends, authorities were able to positively identify the bones using advanced forensic DNA testing and a family match, according to the source.

Investigators were initially called to the self-storage facility at 1725 Carpenter Fletcher Road on Oct. 22, 2016, when someone cleaning out a unit that belonged to a deceased tenant found a plastic container with a bone sticking out of it. Though the medical examiner’s office extracted DNA and eventually entered it into a national database, the person’s identity remained a mystery. Similarly, in 2018, Durham police sent the skull to the FBI to perform facial reconstruction, but the resulting composite image of the Jane Doe didn’t turn up any “viable leads” after it was released to the public, the source reported.

Last year, police entered the case into the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and contacted an Othram Inc. laboratory in Texas to perform the advanced forensic testing. Then, while working on an unrelated case last fall, police learned that Poitra had been missing for several years after leaving her home in North Dakota. After police obtained DNA samples from Poitra’s family, independent firm DNA Solutions confirmed that the Poitra Family DNA samples matched the Jane Doe profile from Othram, according to the source.

The cause of Poitra’s death is still unknown, but police are investigating the incident as a homicide. She was 28 when she disappeared, and though she lived in North Dakota, she was known to visit the East Durham area, according to police.

Poitra’s remains, which have been kept at the state medical examiner’s office since 2016, will be returned to her relatives in North Dakota. The family has raised nearly $10,000 through GoFundMe for a memorial, according to the source.

The case is still under investigation. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Durham Police Department at 919.560.4440, using extension 29326 or 29334. Anonymous tips can be made through CrimeStoppers at 919.683.1200.

Ample operates more than 60 self-storage facilities in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

ABC 11, Remains Found in Durham Self-Storage Facility Are Those of Woman Missing Since 2005

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