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A Mother’s Search: How tragic teen Samantha Bonnell’s mom solved mystery after her death

Photograph of Samantha Bonnell
Samantha Bonnell, whose tragic case features on A Mother’s Search. Pic: Investigation Discovery

Tonight on Investigation Discovery, A Mother’s Search looks at how tragic teenager Samantha Bonnell’s mother Mary Weir solved the painful mystery surrounding her disappearance — by identifying her on the web following her death.

Bonnell died at the age of 18 after being hit by at least two cars on a freeway in Montclair, CA. She had traveled there from her home in Palmer, Alaska, while pursuing a dream of traveling the country.

Around a day before her death, she rang her mother Mary to tell her how she was getting on — never to be heard from again.

As Samantha didn’t have any identification documents on her when she died, police were unable to identify her body.

She lay unidentified as Jane Doe 17-05 for a year and a half before Weir managed to identify her herself after trawling sketches on the Doe Network website of people who had been left unidentified following their deaths.

Mary had previously been unable to file a missing persons report after Samantha’s disappearance, as she was over the age of 18.

She was only able to after her daughter’s luggage — containing items both belonging to Samantha and at least one other person — turned up in a carport in Hanahan, SC, in February 2006.

How it got there remains a mystery to this day.

Mary then also took it into her own hands to speed up the identification process by sending detectives in California her daughter’s dental records.

Samantha’s body was finally identified in April 2007.

A Mother’s Search airs tonight at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery. 

Julian is the editor of Monsters & Critics. He has worked as a journalist for more than ten years, previously as an editor at the... read more
Julian Cheatle

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