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“Ma, I’ll be home in a bit,” Jennifer Leigh Medernach told her mother as the 14-year-old girl walked out of their family’s 103rd Street home on Jacksonville’s Westside to accompany a friend to a nearby convenience store.

It wasn’t uncommon for the teenager to go off and stay with friends for a couple of days without telling her mom. But the Joseph Stillwell Middle School student never came back.

Four days later, on Nov. 8, 2001, the teen’s nude body bearing multiple stab wounds was found face down in the shallow water of Long Branch Creek at a small bridge in northwestern Clay County along County Road 217. It seems likely the killer or killers dumped her there.

McKinney said detectives recently obtained some new DNA evidence via new methods of testing that they hope will provide new leads. The DNA came from the screw-top handle of a hunting- or survival-style knife that investigators found in the vicinity of her body. Although the blade has yet to be recovered, detectives think that knife might be the murder weapon.

“We have actually had some suspects over the years that we have talked to. We’ve had some persons of interest that we’ve definitely been interested in,” said McKinney, adding detectives have traveled as far as Georgia to interview people about the murder.

In December 2013, the Sheriff’s Office dive team aided by the new technology of underwater metal detectors, again searched Long Branch Creek where her body was found. Seven months earlier in May, detectives along with Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents searched a home on McClelland Road about two miles away for possible evidence but nothing was found.

Because Medernach’s body was found just across the Duval-Clay County line, they suspect she was killed in Duval County. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been working with Clay detectives on the case, said McKinney, who declined comment about a possible motive.

http://jacksonville.com/news/crime/2...rching-justice