A woman with western Maryland ties vanished without a trace in Florida, and for 17 years her family wondered what happened to her.
Police in Florida have determined Jeana Burrus was killed and placed in a shallow grave.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren spoke to her loved ones in Maryland. They told him they are into tracing their genealogy and her aunt submitted DNA in hopes of finding long-lost relatives.
It ended up solving a cold case.
Burrus was 39 when she disappeared in 2006 in Sarasota, Florida, where she had moved from Frederick with her husband and young son.
Her uncle in Maryland says the calls and visits soon stopped coming.
“In 2006, we didn’t hear. So, I waited a little bit to see if her stepfather heard,” her uncle Clare George Wiedmaier said. “He didn’t. Or her brother heard. He didn’t. So then I proceeded to call the husband.”
He said her husband told him a story that he won’t reveal publicly because the case is under investigation.
“We thought the story was true, that she was just going to show up on our door like she has in the past, visiting or calling. And it went on and on, and the following year or before, I attempted to call Jamie again, and there was no answer,” Wiedmaier said. “The phone was turned off, and then I had no way of tracking him.”
No missing person’s report was filed.
But back in Florida, just months after the family’s last contact with Jeana, police found skeletal remains behind a body shop where her husband worked.
“She was dressed in a shirt, in a skirt, no shoes or anything like that to indicate she didn’t walk into those woods on her own,” said Lt. Mark LeFebvre of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. “The body was there for probably a year to a year and a half.”
The FBI made a sketch of the victim, but the case went cold until late last year.
Due to advances in DNA technology, they were able to match the remains to the family in Maryland and positively identify Burrus.
“We were shocked when the police came here from Florida to knock on our door,” her uncle said. “Because we do a lot of DNA work, family tree research, that’s how they were able to match up Jeana’s body with my wife. It’s my wife’s niece.”
LeFebvre said Burrus’ relatives in Maryland were surprised at how close the son lives to them now.
“James Jr. was always told he was abandoned by his mother,” he said. “In this case, he’s learning new information so he’s struggling with those things.”
Wiedmaier said his niece “was a good mom. She did anything and everything to please her husband, and this whole thing is more than shocking. We couldn’t believe it when we were at the table with the police. We just couldn’t believe it.”
Police have not made any arrests or filed charges in the case. Burrus’ family hopes there will be justice.
“It’s got to get solved. It’s got to be some type of justice. We are working with the police any way we can,” her uncle said.
WJZ is a media partner of The Baltimore Banner