http://www.petoskeynews.com/featured-pnr/f...1a4bcf6878.htmlFrom missing to murder: Northern Michigan woman's remains ID'd in decades-old case
Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:34 am | Updated: 2:34 pm, Thu Nov 21, 2013.
Posted on November 21, 2013
by Steve Zucker
A Northern Michigan family has modern science and some hard work by a cold case detective to thank for bringing some closure to a case involving the disappearance of a family member 27 years ago. But now the question is, “Who killed her and why?”
On Tuesday morning, Eva Rovang of Brutus got a call from Phoenix Police Department Det. Stuart Somershoe with the news the DNA test had confirmed that remains found by a hunter in the Arizona wilderness in April of 1988 are indeed those of her sister Julie Grubaugh, who had disappeared from the Phoenix area a year and a half earlier.
FOUND: Pinal County, Ariz.
The case has now been re-classified as a murder investigation.
Rovang said her sister, then Julie Rutterbush, graduated from Pellston High School 1979 and married Doug Grubaugh.
The couple had two children, Dennis and Karen. They divorced and then reconciled.
Rovang said it was around 1985 when the couple headed to Arizona in search of a “fresh start,” leaving their two children to live with her parents.
Rovang said her sister was in the habit of regularly communicating with family member then suddenly they didn’t hear from her anymore.
After multiple attempts to contact her, family members filed a missing persons report on Nov. 27, 1986.
Somershoe, the cold case detective for the Phoenix Police Department said his investigation shows that Doug and Julie moved to Phoenix where Doug worked at a wrecking yard and Julie worked at a coffee shop.
According to investigators, the last person known to see Julie alive was Doug, who said he dropped Julie off at a Greyhound bus station on Nov. 2.
In April of 1988, a rabbit hunter found some skeletal remains of a woman in rural Pinal County, Ariz. about an hour’s drive from Phoenix.
Police with the Eloy Police Department in Pinal County processed the remains and the scene, which have remained locked away in storage ever since.
That was long before today’s DNA evidence processing was available.
Enter the University of North Texas’ Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology and Human Identification.
According to the university’s website: “The laboratory provides human remains location and recovery assistance to law enforcement and medicolegal professionals across the U.S. and postmortem laboratory analysis. The laboratory participates in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) by entering samples from unknown human remains. The laboratory provides graduate academic training and accredited professional training to law enforcement and medicolegal investigators and to a number of federal agencies.”
Somershoe said the program has become the “clearinghouse” for efforts to connect the estimated 40,000 unidentified remains across the country with the thousands of open missing persons cases.
When Somershoe inherited the Julie Grubaugh case, he recently contacted family members here in Northern Michigan and requested a DNA sample, which is what brought the confirmation of Julie’s remains just this week.
Somershoe said the case is now being treated as a homicide.
He said the reason for treating the case as a murder is the evidence that has been collected doesn’t point to any other reason for Julie’s disappearance and death.
He pointed to the fact that she left checks waiting to be picked up at her job and other factors that make it unlikely that she simply wandered out into the wilderness.
“In situations like this we have to look at her life patterns,” Somershoe said. “She maintained regular contact with her family. She spoke to her mother and siblings often. There was no reason for her to disappear. She had no history of alcohol or drug issues, no mental health issues.”
Somershoe conceded that the 27 years that has passed since her disappearance is a big obstacle, the passage of time can also be an asset.
“Friends who were friends back then aren’t friends anymore and might be willing to talk."
That’s why Somershoe wants to talk with anyone who knew Julie or interacted with her who might have information that could assist in the investigation.
Somershoe can be reached by phone at (602) 261-8065. The department also has an anonymous tip line which is 1(800) 343-TIPS.
In the meantime, the next step for Julie’s family is to make arrangements to bring her remains home to Northern Michigan for a proper burial.
“It’s such a surreal thing,” Rovang said. “We wondered and wondered for all these year. We felt terrible. We’re happy they found her, but sad about the circumstances. Now we just have to figure out a way to bring her home.”
Somershoe is hoping to have more answers for the family in the future.
“It’s a horrific limbo to exist in (for families of missing people,” Somershoe said. "It’s almost worse than when someone dies.”
He added: “Closure is such a trite word. I call it resolution. That’s a big part of it, to know where the loved one is.”