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Human Remains Identified As Missing 14-Year-Old Months After Florida Disappearance
Officials said in November that they identified "persons of interest" in the disappearance of Demiah Appling. It remains unclear if there've been any arrests after the recent discovery of Appling's body prompted a homicide investigation.
Florida deputies have confirmed that human remains discovered earlier this month belong to a missing 14-year-old girl.
Demiah Appling was reported missing on Oct. 24 after she left the Suwannee Gardens neighborhood of Old Town, Florida, about 40 miles west of Gainesville. On Friday, Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler confirmed that human remains found on Dec. 5 in Gilchrist County belong to the missing teen.
The Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office reported the teen's body was found in Bell, about 20 miles north of Old Town. A positive identification was made through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) crime lab in Tallahassee and the 8th Circuit Medical Examiner’s Office, where they ruled the manner of death as a homicide.
A cause of death has not been released.
Demiah was last spotted on Oct. 16 after leaving Suwannee Gardens at around 9:30 p.m. in a vehicle, according to officials. A missing child alert was activated, and multiple agencies banded together to search for the missing teenager, including K9 teams from the Cross City Correctional Institution and the Lancaster Correctional Institution.
“The area surrounding Suwannee Gardens and the neighborhood locally known as the Old Town Hammock has been identified by investigators as areas of interest,” deputies announced on Nov. 9.
The search area was widened to include an area north of Highway 19, west of State Road 349, and south of Spillers Highway, authorities announced. They also amended missing persons information to include that Demiah was last known to be wearing navy blue Nike slides, SpongeBob SquarePants shorts, a black t-shirt and a heart-shaped gold necklace.
Demiah was also believed to be in possession of her cell phone.
“When Demiah was reported missing, Sheriff Butler immediately recognized the importance of finding Demiah and assigned a team of investigators to concentrate their efforts on locating her,” Dixie County officials stated Friday. “In addition, the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office partnered with multiple agencies that assisted in the investigation and provided additional resources to aid in finding Demiah’s killer.”
On Nov. 9, before the discovery of Demiah’s body, authorities announced that they “developed persons of interest” in the case “based on forensic evidence.”
Oxygen.com reached out to the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office — which is leading the homicide investigation — to inquire if there’d been an arrest in the case but did not receive an immediate response.
On Dec. 1, as the search for Demiah continued, her mother, Debra Appling, made an emotional appeal on Facebook.
“I need this child home. I know there is someone or some people who know what happened. I know there are answers,” said the mother. “What I don’t know is where she is. I’m running on borrowed time right now, wondering if she’s safe, cold, hungry, confused, lost, or worse. Your mind goes a mile a minute, the thoughts are horrendous.
“I find myself not remembering what I’m doing in the second. I can’t concentrate, I’m not hungry, I’m up all night hoping she’ll come through the door,” Debra Appling continued. “Please, please, if you know something, say something. This is tormenting my whole family.”
On Sunday, Debra Appling posted a picture of her daughter with the caption, “Rest in peace, Myah.”
“You are a special angel, and justice will prevail,” wrote the mother. “We will get answers.”
The FDLE confirmed the identification on Friday when canceling the missing child alert, saying, “our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time.”
Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler thanked multiple agencies, including the FDLE, Gilchrist County officials, the Florida Highway Patrol, the state’s Department of Corrections, the District 8 Medical Examiner’s Office, and the State’s Attorney’s Office.
“Our work here is far from over,” according to investigators. “The Dixie County Sheriff’s Office will continue their investigation and partnership with other agencies to ensure that the people responsible for Demiah’s death are held accountable.”
It remains unclear if the person or persons identified by Dixie County officials have been questioned concerning Appling’s disappearance and death.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Dixie County Sheriff's Office’s tip line at 1-352-498-1245.