Police Discover Remains Believed to Be Those of a 16-year-old Girl Missing Since 2004

Florida authorities say they believe they have found the remains of a 16-year-old girl who went missing in 2004 in a mystery that took nearly two decades to solve.

Detectives investigating Autumn Lane McClure’s disappearance discovered the bones while excavating her likely burial place on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Volusia Sheriff’s Office.

McClure of Ormond Beach, Florida, was last seen on May 10, 2004. Her boyfriend informed authorities he dropped her off near the Volusia Mall, according to the sheriff’s office.

Detectives re-interviewed McClure’s boyfriend in 2016, and he admitted he lied in 2004 and denied dropping McClure off at the mall, according to Sheriff Mike Chitwood at a news conference Thursday. He claimed to have dropped her off near a bridge, where she got into a car with Jessica Freeman, a grocery store coworker, according to the sheriff.

Police Discover Remains Believed to Be Those of a 16-year-old Girl Missing Since 2004

McClure was residing with Freeman and her boyfriend, Brian Donley, 31, at their trailer at the time of her disappearance, and the youngster was having a sexual relationship with both of them, according to the sheriff.

Detectives later tracked down Freeman, who said she had no information, according to Chitwood.

In 2021, investigators uncovered a person of interest after receiving a phone call from Chris Miller, a man who knew Donley and Freeman, according to the sheriff.

According to Chitwood, Miller told police, “I need to get this off my chest. Brian Donley and/or Jessica Freeman must have been involved in the disappearance, death, and burial of a teenage girl in Volusia County.

Miller placed a controlled call to Freeman, during which Freeman said that “she saw Brian Donley kill Autumn, and that he told a myriad of stories” about how he disposed of her, according to Chitwood.

Donley “had the ability to instill fear in everybody,” Chitwood said, noting that it took years for “Miller to finally wake up and say, ‘Enough is enough, I can’t live with my conscience, as a father, knowing that I heard him tell people what he did.'”

Chitwood said that Donley died on May 26, 2022.

“The sad part is he’ll never face, in this world, for the evil that he perpetrated,” the sheriff went on to say.

Detectives re-interviewed Freeman, and prosecutors gave her immunity, according to the sheriff.

Freeman told detectives that “she came home one afternoon and saw Brian choking Autumn in the bathroom,” and that “by the time she intervened, she saw Autumn was lifeless,” according to the sheriff.

Authorities believe the motive was McClure’s intention to return home, and Donley was concerned that if she did and revealed their sexual relationship, he would face prosecution.

About two weeks after the murder, Freeman reported finding plywood on the bedroom floor. Freeman claimed she asked Donley, “What happened to Autumn?” He said, “Shut up or the same thing will happen to you,” according to Chitwood.

Freeman phoned police again in late 2023, telling them that McClure was buried beneath their trailer, according to the sheriff.

Freeman told police that Donley planned to return to the location, and Freeman was concerned that “he would kill her as easily as he killed Autumn,” Chitwood said.

Police stated they do not believe Freeman was involved in the murder.

According to Chitwood, McClure’s brother is “relieved” that his sister’s remains have been recovered.

“He wasn’t astonished. I mean, there have been speculations, but they are delighted that she has been found,” he explained.

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