Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Kokes and Arkansas Crime Information Center Director Jay Winters today announced that the remains found in the Arkansas River last week were identified as belonging to Shequenia Burnett.
The identification was made based on DNA samples given from family members at the Attorney General’s event to raise awareness for and help loved ones locate missing persons, Never Forgotten: Arkansas Takes Action.
Burnett’s family had provided DNA samples to the State Crime Lab at the 2014 and 2015 missing persons event.
“First and foremost, my heart goes out to Shequenia’s family,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The grief they continue to feel is unimaginable. I remain hopeful that through the work of local law enforcement there will be justice for Shequenia and closure for her family. This closure would not be possible without the work of local law enforcement, and I commend their tireless efforts on these very difficult and emotional cases. I also hope that this discovery using DNA collected at the Never Forgotten event will encourage others with missing loved ones to attend next year’s event to provide samples and receive support from other families.”
“Thanks to the efforts of multiple Arkansas State Crime Lab employees, the remains of Shequenia Burnett were identified within days of their recovery,” said Dr. Kokes. “Without comparison of the DNA samples obtained at the Never Forgotten events, this would not have been possible.”
“We are appreciative of the Attorney General’s office for partnering with us and taking the lead on this so that we can collect these samples and help get these families closure,” said Winters.
Burnett of North Little Rock was reported missing on Jan. 15, 2014, after her mother, Sharon Jiles, had not heard from her daughter since Jan. 9.
The human leg belonging to Burnett was found on Saturday, Dec. 5 near the Big Dam Bridge in the Arkansas River. The Little Rock Police Department and the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office both responded after someone called police to report seeing the leg.
Rutledge hosted the fourth annual Never Forgotten event last June in partnership with the Crime Lab, state Medical Examiner and other agencies. Families of missing persons in Arkansas were invited to attend to provide DNA samples and information that could assist law enforcement in locating missing persons. Families provided DNA samples to be included in the national database, as well as police reports, photographs and dental records.
This is the second time that DNA collected at the annual Never Forgotten event has resulted in helping to identify a missing person’s remains.
In Feb. 2013, authorities in Memphis determined that remains discovered in that city in 2011 were those of Tommy Lee Newingham of Earle, who had been missing for 12 years. Newingham’s death is being investigated as a homicide.
Information about the 2016 Never Forgotten event will be announced at a later date.
The North Little Rock Police Department is conducting the investigation into Burnett’s death. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the department at 501-758-1234.