Duval County

More than 30 years later, remains linked to local mother

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. — A local family says they’re finally getting closure.

The Green Cove Springs Police Department helped bring answers to the family of a local woman who disappeared more than 30 years ago.

Melinda Holder, 36, was first reported missing Jan. 24, 1989.

“The funeral that we had for her yesterday was overdue,” said her daughter, Nakia Holder.

Melinda was a mother of five children, and the family lived in a tight-knit neighborhood in Green Cove Springs.

“You know what, my only prayer after 29 years was to bring my mom home,” Holder added.

Holder said a knock on the door was finally the answer to her prayer.

“Now it’s more questions. Now we want to know who it did,” she said.

Holder said her grandmother’s house on Harrison Street is the last place she saw her mother. She was just 9 years old.

According to police, in December of 1989, an empty house on Harrison Street burned down from a fire. Police say it’s a place where drug users would often visit.

“When my mom first disappeared, my mom would to stay gone, and that was usual for her to leave and not tell anybody, but this time, she was gone for a while,” said Holder.

It was only one day later when fire investigators searched through the rubble and found human bones.

“We knew about the house fire, but we didn’t know who it was. No one told us,” she said.

Recently, a mitochondrial DNA test comparison conducted by the University of North Texas found that Holder’s children and the remains in the fire were matches, according to investigators.

“They got DNA from us again, and that’s what really closed the case,” said Holder.

Police say an autopsy showed Melinda Holder may have died several days before her body was found in the fire.

Nakia said she talked to people who knew her mother, took lots of notes and even brought the search to social media.

“I didn’t think average people get closure like this. I thought only people with money and power ever get answers, so they thought enough of my mother and my family to continue this. I thank God for them,” she added.

After finding out what happened to her mother all those years, she has even more questions.

According to investigators, the Duval County Medical Examiner’s Office has issued a death certificate for Melinda Holder.