JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ark. – Deputies in Jefferson County said state officials confirmed that human remains discovered May 5 after extensive searches belong to missing Arkansas woman Maranda Neal.

The discovery was announced Thursday evening after DNA testing performed by the Arkansas State Crime Lab officially confirmed Neal’s identity after the remains were found during exhaustive grid searches over hundreds of acres of woods.

An investigation was launched into Neal’s disappearance in May of 2022 after she had last been seen by her father, who reported seeing her take an ATV and head towards a local cemetery to visit her mother’s grave.  

Deputies with the JCSO sent out several search crews, but no clues or leads were found until November of 2022 when a deer hunter reported finding an ATV in a wooded area near Robinson Road.

During the investigation, deputies found that the ATV matched the description of the one Neal had last been seen on and another search was conducted in the area.

On Friday May 5, more than 40 people, including deputies with the JCSO, members of the Quapaw Nation, Office of Emergency Management and the Morgan Nick Foundation, were searching for Neal in the Watson Chapel area where a K-9 team discovered human remains in a thick underbrush southeast of Presidents Circle.

Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. expressed his condolences and sympathies to Neal’s family during this difficult time.

“The loss of a loved one is an unimaginable tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends as they navigate through their grief,” Woods said. “The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to supporting them throughout this process.”

The investigation into the circumstances surrounding Neal’s disappearance and discovery of her remains is ongoing. 

Anyone with information related to this case is urged to contact the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 870-541-5351.