Missing woman's remains found in Pa.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 12:00 AM
The skeletal remains of a woman recovered in a rural area of Pennsylvania in September 2010 have been positively identified through DNA testing as that of a Philadelphia native who was reported missing nearly three years ago.
Chief of Police Bill Cox said the remains are that of Teresa Mae Johnson Ware, 38, of 525 Pleasant Valley Dr., who was reported missing in July 2010 by a family member.
She had been missing since April of that year, said Cox, who was the police investigator assigned to the case at the time.
Her death is being investigated in Pike County, Penn., as a homicide.
Family members provided DNA samples to Pennsylvania authorities last July and again in September.
Positive identification was made earlier this month through testing at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, which runs a massive database of the DNA of missing persons.
Cox said authorities suspected at the time that Ware left the state with a commercial truck driver from Pennsylvania.
Prior to her disappearance, she had lived in Clinton.
Philadelphia native Bill Copeland, a childhood friend and second cousin of Ware's who now lives Monticello, Ark., said the family had not had any contact with her since April 9, 2010, when she last updated her Myspace page.
"She went missing and we had no idea where to start looking for her," Copeland said. "I later stumbled on a Facebook page titled "Where is Teresa Ware?" which was set up by some of her high school friends."
Ware was a 1990 graduate of Neshoba Central High School.
Copeland said he learned through the Facebook page that she had last spoken with a friend over the telephone while she was at a truck stop in central Pennsylvania.
Copeland said the family contacted Pennsylvania authorities and later learned that remains of a woman had been discovered in Perry County not long after Ware went missing.
That led to the lengthy DNA testing.
"A man had purchased some property and was looking for deer tracks when he stumbled on the remains," Copeland said.
"He's an incredibly nice guy. He met us at the site where she was found. The coroner, the state police, I can't say enough good things about the people in Pennsylvania who we had to deal with and talk to."
Chief Cox said Ware's case was one of the most complicated missing person investigations that he had dealt with in his law enforcement career.
"She left Philadelphia willingly so there was no evidence of foul play on this end," he said.
Family members described Ware as a beautiful, blonde haired, blue-eyed girl who loved her family and enjoyed spending time with friends.
"She loved her kids," Copeland said. "When she missed a couple of their birthdays and Christmas, we figured something bad had happened. We really got suspicious. It was pure luck that we found her. Until you have something like this to happen, you don't realize how many people in the U. S. are missing and how many bodies are unclaimed. It's mind boggling."
Graveside services for Ware will be Sunday at 2 p.m. from Cedarlawn Cemetery.
McClain-Hays Funeral Home is in charge of local arrangements.
Survivors include daughter, Megan Ware of Raymond; sons, Chase Ware and Brett Ware of Ridgeland; birth-daughter, Brookelyn Hall of Jackson; brother, David Johnson of Philadelphia; and sisters, Debbie Johnson of Brookhaven, and Sandy Johnson of Union.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Nell and Jim Johnson and grandparents, Lillie and Clyde Agent, all of Philadelphia.