DECATUR, GA—DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston today (March 22) announced a major development in the case of an unidentified homicide victim whose remains were found in the Tucker area nearly 30 years ago. The victim has been positively identified as Rebecca “Becky” Burke, 52. The newly-formed DeKalb County Cold Case Task Force seeks information about Burke’s death.
The cold case dates back to Sept. 16, 1993, when the remains of a woman were found in a wooded area behind the Fairfield Inn located at 2155 Ranchwood Drive (now the Quality Inn Northlake), and a vacant medical office at the intersection of Parklake Drive in the Tucker area. The body was found behind an electrical unit covered in pine straw and branches, which appeared to have been deliberately placed in an effort to conceal the body.
The remains were in an advanced state of decomposition. The DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office estimated that the woman had been deceased between two weeks and three months prior to being found. She had sustained traumatic injury to the facial area, as well as a neck fracture that may indicate pressure having been applied to the neck.
No identification was found near the body. However, the victim had extensive dental work, as well as a left hip replacement that may have caused an unusual gait. Despite law enforcement efforts at the time, the woman found on Sept. 16, 1993, was never identified, and her case ran cold.
Burke, who was last known to reside in the Marietta or Smyrna area of Cobb County, was identified through DNA testing funded as a part of a collaboration between the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) and Othram and linked to a family member.
Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG), an emerging investigative technique that combines technological advancements in DNA analysis and searching with traditional genealogy research, was used. FGG, first used to identify the Golden State Killer in 2018, can generate leads to identify unknown suspects, as well as help to identify the remains of homicide victims where traditional law enforcement identification methods have been unsuccessful.
Family members say Rebecca “Becky” Burke may have also gone by the last names McChesney or Barnes. Anyone who may have known or interacted with her in the days and months leading up to her death in 1993 or worked at the Fairfield Inn in the Tucker area during that time frame, is encouraged to call the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Cold Case Tip Line at 404-371-2444. Callers may remain anonymous.
“We’re grateful to finally have identified Becky Burke’s remains, but the work doesn’t end here,” said District Attorney Boston. “If you have any information about Becky’s last days, please contact our Cold Case Tip Line.”
DeKalb County Cold Case Task Force
Burke was identified through the work of the DeKalb County Cold Case Task Force, a newly-formed coalition consisting of staff from the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office, the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the DeKalb County Police Department, and a private lab partner, Innovative Forensic Investigations.
The Task Force was conceived after the successful July 2022 announcement of the identification of William DaShawn Hamilton, who was 6 years old at the time of his death in 1999, and the indictment of his mother, Teresa Ann Bailey Black, for his murder.
“After working alongside our partners to identify William DaShawn Hamilton and beginning the process of bringing the person responsible for his death to justice, we were all asking ourselves how we could ensure justice and closure for more cold case victims,” said District Attorney Boston. “Cold case work takes determination, time…and funding.
The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office has been awarded a three-year Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program grant in the amount of $500,000 to identify the remains of 27 individuals found in DeKalb County. The funding, provided by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), is intended for use in improving the reporting, transportation, processing, and identification of missing persons and unidentified human remains.
The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office is one of only six entities nationally to receive a grant through the MUHR Program, administered for the first time in fiscal year 2022, and the only prosecutor’s office to receive an award.
The DeKalb County Cold Case Task Force will use these funds to catalog, report, test, identify and return to families the unidentified remains of 27 individuals, including Burke’s remains. To date, some remains have been housed at the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office. Others are buried and will be exhumed to begin the process of identification.
A Missing Persons Event and DNA Drive hosted by the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office and District Attorney’s Office will be held on Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at the DeKalb County Public Library, 3500 Covington Highway, Decatur. Families of missing persons will have an opportunity to open new reports on their missing relatives and donate DNA that may assist with identification efforts.
For more information about the Missing and Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Program: