12-year-old Jessica Maple (if that isn't a great Nancy Drew-style name, I don't know what is) was supposed to spend her summer vacation learning about law enforcement, which she did. By solving a burglary case at her family's home in Georgia.

Maple had been enrolled in a "six-week Fulton County Junior District Attorney program," which included "field trips to meet the governor, view a demonstration of drug-testing equipment and even sit in the same room with Nancy Grace, a former prosecutor in the office who has since gone on to other things" which turned out to be all she needed to crack a real life case wiiiiide open:

"The idea is to introduce them to various careers in the law," said Kenya Johnson, the assistant district attorney who manages the two-day-a-week program.

After class one day in July, Jessica got a more intimate introduction. Her mother, Stephanie Maple, received an urgent call concerning a burglary.

Together they drove 160 miles south to the city of Fitzgerald, Ga., population 9,051, where the family owns a house once occupied by Jessica's great-grandmother that has been vacant since her death in 2004. The family checks on the property three or four times a year, Maple said.

The Fitzgerald Police Department, which employs 28 full-time officers, dispatched a patrol unit to respond to a neighbor's report of a door ajar, according to Detective Sgt. James Tilley. But before much investigative work got done, he said, the Maples showed up at the police department.

"Her daughter was with her, and when she got here she was really inquisitive," Tilley said. "She started asking me questions like point of entry and did we get any latent fingerprints. I wondered: One, where'd she learn this? And two, why am I being questioned by a child?"

The Maples drove on to the house, where they found smudged fingerprints on the white garage door.

"It was obvious there had been forced entry," Jessica said. "The police officers just weren't looking well enough."

The place was ransacked; clothes were everywhere. The bed was missing. So were the china cabinet, stove, washer, dryer, microwave and TV.

A neighbor took an emotional Jessica and her 7-year-old brother, Dylan, next door to calm down. Then the family went looking for the stolen goods. At a thrift store called Lucky Food and Fashion, Jessica spotted the table and chairs.

"She came to me: ‘Mama, I found grandmama's dining room,'" Maple said.

Tilley met the Maples and compared the furniture to a 30-year-old photograph provided by the family.

"There's no doubt it was hers," Tilley said. "You could look at it and tell."

The store's paperwork included a photocopy of the seller's ID card.

"We called the police again," Jessica said. "I was like, ‘We beat you again.'"

Tilley said he made that particular investigative breakthrough on his own. But he added, "I give her kudos. That little girl's something."

The Real Nancy Drew [TheDaily]