Human remains found in search for Ormond Beach girl reported missing in 2004

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Volusia County Sheriff’s Office investigators say they’ve found human remains believed to be those of a Mainland High School student who was reported missing nearly 20 years ago.


According to the sheriff’s office, 16-year-old Autumn Lane McClure was reported missing by her grandmother on May 10, 2004. Her boyfriend at the time claimed he had dropped her off at the Volusia Mall in Daytona Beach, but investigators would later learn that wasn’t true.

In the 20 years since their investigation began, Volusia Sheriff’s Office detectives say they collected DNA samples from members of McClure’s family and interviewed friends and possible witnesses multiple times.

READ: ‘Multiple victims’: One dead, several hurt in Orlando shooting, police say

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood briefed the media Thursday afternoon on the investigative steps that led to Wednesday’s discovery at property on Hand Avenue in Ormond Beach.

According to Chitwood, later in 2004, detectives investigating McClure’s disappearance received information that she was staying at a trailer at 1320 Hand Ave. with two people identified as Brian Donley and his girlfriend at the time, Jessica Freeman.

In their initial interview with detectives, Chitwood says the couple admitted they knew McClure from her job at a local Winn Dixie, and that they’d allowed her to stay at the trailer with them after a dispute with her grandmother, but denied knowing anything about what may have happened to her.

According to Chitwood, the case went cold until 2016 when detectives who were still working the case contacted McClure’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance again and he admitted to lying when he was initially questioned in 2004, saying he actually dropped her off at Seabreeze Bridge where she got into a car with Jessica Freeman.

Two years later, in 2018, detectives found Freeman living in Nevada and questioned her about the case again, and again, she denied knowing any more than she told investigators in 2004.

Another three years later, in 2021, Chitwood says detectives received a call from a family friend and relative to Freeman and Donley, Christopher Miller, who said he had information about the case.

According to Chitwood, Miller told detectives he had information about a “teen girl” who was missing and was “dead and buried” in Volusia County, and that Freeman and Donley almost certainly had something to do with it.

In a controlled call between Miller and Freeman, Chitwood says Freeman claimed she saw Donley kill McClure and later told her a “myriad” of stories about what he had done with the body.

On May 26, 2022, almost 18 years to the day after McClure disappeared, and just as Donley was being developed as a person of interest in the case, he died during a medical procedure, Chitwood said.

“The said part is, he will never face, in this world, for the evil that he perpetrated,” Chitwood said Thursday. “I’m hoping to God when he took his last breath that the had a vision of where the hell he was headed.”

READ: Woman accused of stabbing her partner to death at their Daytona Beach apartment

Despite Donley’s death the investigation continued, leading investigators back to Jessica Freeman who had since returned to Florida from Nevada.

According to Chitwood, it was only after Freeman was granted immunity in the case by the State Attorney’s Office that she agreed to finally tell investigators all she knew about what happened to McClure.

Chitwood says Freeman again recalled working with McClure at Winn Dixie and allowing her to stay in the trailer with her and Donley in what was a sexual relationship between the three of them.

Freeman said she returned to the trailer one afternoon and saw Donley, who would have been 31 years old at the time, choking McClure until she became “lifeless.”

According to Chitwood, Freeman said she left the trailer, but returned two weeks later and noticed plywood on the bedroom floor, prompting her to ask what happened McClure and her belongings.

Freeman told investigators that Donley responded by telling her “shut up or the same thing will happen to you,” referring to McClure’s disappearance.

According to Chitwood, Freeman said Donley told her numerous stories over the years describing what was done with McClure’s remains. She recalled a time in late 2021 or early 2022 when Donley visited the property where the trailer once sat and expressed relief at the sight of a new manufactured home under construction there.

Finally, in late 2023, deputies say Freeman reached out again and said McClure was buried underneath the property where their trailer once sat.

Deputies got a warrant to search the property on Feb. 21 and began the excavation process the following Monday.

With help from Dr. Lerah Sutton from the University of Florida’s Center for Forensic Medicine and their ground-penetrating radar, investigators identified locations of interest under the property and were ultimately able to recover McClure’s remains.

READ: FL Supreme Court upholds convictions, death sentence for man who killed 2 Kissimmee officers in 2017

According to Sheriff Chitwood, they were able to recover “99.9 percent” of Autumn’s body.

The remains have been sent to the Medical Examiner’s office for positive identification and an attempt to determine the exact cause of death, but detectives say that will be difficult.

Detectives say they’ve been in contact with McClure’s twin brother, one of her only living relatives. He said he’s relieved to have some closure.

Click here to download our free news, weather and smart TV apps. And click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.