Girl found in suitcase is daughter of slain woman
THE remains of a two-year-old girl found in a suitcase alongside a South Australian highway have been identified by police as the daughter of Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson -- a 20-year-old whose body was found in Belanglo State Forest in 2010.
Khandalyce Kiara Pearce, 2, and her mother were from Alice Springs and reported missing in 2009.
Ms Pearce-Stevenson was a single mother who moved away from family with her daughter between 2006 and 2008.
Her intention was to travel and work.
New South Wales Police investigators say she was last seen with her daughter in a car on the Stuart Highway near Cooper Pedy, NT in late 2008.
Ms Pearce-Stevenson was 20 at the time. She was wearing a shirt with 'Angel' emblazoned on the front.
Her "skeletal remains" were found in Belanglo State Forest in August 2010, prompting NSW Police to launch Strike Force Hixson.
A joint-agency operation, involving Homicide Squads from South Australia, New South Wales, Northern Territory, and ACT Police, has been established.
South Australian Major Crime Detectives obtained Khandalyce's records which showed she was immunised at 18 months.
There was no further record of her receiving medical treatment or being enrolled in school.
Investigators then located a witness who had seen Khandalyce and her mother at an Adelaide Shopping Centre, Adelaide in November 2008.
She had taken photos of Khandalyce wearing a pink dress.
That dress is identical to that found with the remains in the suitcase.
SA Police were also provided with photos of Khandalyce in a stroller with the handmade quilt that was also found in the suitcase.
Finally a blood sample from Khandalyce's medical records was analysed by Forensic Science South Australia and conclusively matched the DNA profile extracted from the skeletal remains in the suitcase.
NSW Police Homicide Commander, Detective Superintendent Mick Willing, said the pair were last seen in late 2008 and reported missing in late 2009.
"Karlie's mum had reported them missing on 4 September 2009, and it is understood she withdrew the report on 9 October 2009 after she was reassured Karlie was safe and well, but did not want family contact at that time," Det Supt Willing said.
"Police were told Karlie was sporadically in contact with her mother, but the contact became less frequent over time, and sadly, Karlie's mum has since passed away.
"Even after this time, the extended family believed Karlie and Khandalyce were safe and well living interstate.
"As you can imagine, the girls' family and friends are devastated.
"They have asked their privacy be respected at this difficult time, while they grieve the loss of two young lives."
SA Police head of Major Crime, Detective Superintendent Des Bray said those responsible for the deaths would be found.
"This is one of the most shocking crimes imaginable and has torn apart and devastated a loving family.
"Those responsible for this crime are truly evil and remain amongst us in the community and must be held accountable for what they have done.
He thanked the community for their support so far with the investigation.
"Both SA and NSW detectives have had excellent support from the community to help identify Karlie and Khandalyce, including nearly 1300 Crime Stoppers calls for each case," Det Supt Bray said.
He said the identification of these remains marked "the beginning of the investigation".
Det Supt Willing said the NSW and SA Homicide Squads are working closely to complete the picture of Karlie's life, particularly since the birth of Khandalyce in 2006.
"We are appealing for assistance from the community to help us identify their friends and associates as they travelled throughout Australia, as well as landlords, motels, caravan parks or campsites where they stayed during this time," Det Supt Willing said.
"Anyone who owns or operates these businesses is urged to check their records and help us piece this puzzle together."
Det Supt Bray echoed the appeal to the community for information, adding that Strike Force Detectives are committed to finding those responsible for the deaths.
"This is one of the most shocking crimes imaginable; one that has not only devastated a family, but also had a terrible impact on the wider community," he said.
"Those responsible for these horrific crimes remain amongst us in the community, and they must quickly be caught and held to account for their actions.
"We need assistance from people throughout Australia who may have seen this young mum and her little girl travelling around at any time over the past 10 years."