Media release

Contact: Debra Johnson
Public Information Officer
Phone: 386.586.4814
E-Mail: [email protected]

April 2, 2008

Remains Identified As Missing Woman

Fourteen years ago, Flagler County Sheriffs deputies were called to a field in southeast Flagler County where they located the remains of a white female.

On Monday, March 24th the Tri-County Medical Examiner’s Office in St. Augustine, officially identified the remains as that of Heather Ann Schmoll who left her home in Stewartville, Minnesota in the Summer of 1993.

The remains of the young woman were discovered February 2, 1994, in a field along U.S. 1 in the vicinity of County Road 200. A dump truck driver transporting fill dirt noticed the body lying in the open field. No signs of foul play or trauma were found on the body or at the scene. An autopsy was later performed listing the cause of death as undetermined with contributory cause of cocaine intoxication. The remains of the female were eventually buried in an unmarked grave in the Espanola Cemetery on County Road 2005.

The Olmsted County Sheriffs Office opened an investigation to the disappearance of Heather on April 3, 2007 at the request of her siblings. Heather was never reported as missing prior to this because of undisclosed family problems.

An initial investigation by Det. Lee Rossman of the Olmsted County Sheriffs Office into the woman’s disappearance indicated that the 17-year-old had run away from home taking her fathers car. The family believed she was headed to Florida with an unknown boyfriend. The last time anyone had any contact with the teenager was New Year’s Day 1994 when she contacted a family friend, crying, begging for help and asking for money to get back to Minnesota. At the time, she told her friend she was in Daytona Beach, Florida. Soon after opening their investigation Heather was entered into the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) computer system as a missing person.

Flagler County Sheriffs Office investigators reopened their investigation into the case in June of 2007 after receiving an NCIC system generated response that showed there were similarities between the unidentified remains and those and the missing woman from Olmsted County, Minnesota.

In reviewing the case Lt. Bob Weber of the Flagler County Sheriffs Office Criminal Investigations Division found that the female had tattoos of “Cody” across one hand and “Love” with a heart on her forearm. Lt. Weber then researched the tattoos on the website and found a match with the tattoos listed in Heather’s file. The photographs were compared with Heather’s tattoos and photographs from the unidentified female and they appeared very similar. The family had set up a page/file on the website looking for any information that may eventually help locate the woman. This information included photographs of Heather, physical description, and descriptions of her tattoos.

During Flagler County’s initial investigation of the incident, the Medical Examiners Office had retained a section of tissue from the unidentified woman which was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab for DNA testing.

On July 3, 2007 Flagler County investigators contacted Det. Lee Rossman with the Olmsted County Sheriffs Office located in Rochester Minnesota and advised him of the similarities in the cases. Investigators in Olmsted County had already started the process of obtaining DNA samples from Heather’s sister and mother.

The DNA process took several months to extract and obtain a DNA profile from the piece of flesh from the unidentified woman. Analysts from the FDLE crime lab and the MN BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) lab worked on comparisons of the DNA profiles. A DNA sample was obtained from Heather’s father and provided to the BCA Lab. The BCA obtained a DNA profile of her father and along with the DNA profile of Heather’s mother compared them to the DNA profiles of the unidentified woman.

On March 13, 2008, the BCA found that Heather’s mother and father could not be excluded from being the biological parents of the unidentified woman. The report indicated that “it is greater than 2 million times more likely that they would be the parents than if an untested random man and woman from the general population were the biological parents of the unidentified woman.”

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has closed its investigation into the case and determined the incident to be non-criminal.

The Schmoll family has been notified of the results of the DNA testing and will be making decisions on how to handle Heather’s remains. At this time they have requested not to be contacted by the media.