Law enforcement in Arizona can finally identify a woman found dead in 1971 after community members banded together to help fund crucial DNA testing.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office was notified on January 23, 1971 of remains found in a desert area near US Highway 93 at Hackberry Road. The body was in a white cotton canvas sack with the words «Deer-Pak Ames Harris Neville Co.» printed in green, authorities said in a facebook post on Tuesday.
Investigators at the time were unable to identify the woman. It wasn’t until Monday, 52 years after her death, that the sheriff’s office was able to find out her name: Colleen Audrey Rice.
The sheriff’s office said that in October 2021, the agency’s special investigative unit worked with an artist to draw a sketch of what Rice might have looked like. They released the sketch to the public in the hope that someone would have information.
Authorities last year began working with forensic genealogy company, Othram Inc., «to determine if advanced DNA testing and forensic-grade genome sequencing could help understand the identity of this woman and the circumstances surrounding her.» surrounded his untimely death,» the sheriff said. the office said.
Authorities contributed $1,000 for the DNA test and asked the public for help with the remaining $6,500. In five days, the money was raised.
“On January 23, 2023, the victim found her voice. Through the use of forensic genetic genealogy, the victim was identified as Colleen Audrey Rice,» the sheriff’s office said. «DNA testing from a relative confirmed this after countless hours of research into her family tree and her contact with distant relatives.»
During the investigation, detectives learned that Rice was born in 1931 in Portsmouth, Ohio, and attended Portsmouth High School. They were also able to identify his parents as James C. Rice and Flossie Truitt. In 1946 she married William Davis in Ohio, according to researchers. She would have been around 39 years old at the time of her death.
Arizona authorities said Rice was separated from her family at some point. They don’t know when or how he ended up in Arizona or if he had children.
A post published in DNASolves.com he said detectives had followed numerous leads to try to identify Rice. Early in the investigation, detectives submitted her fingerprints to the FBI’s Washington office and visited hotels and businesses in the area where her body was found. They also investigated missing person reports filed throughout Arizona and in the neighboring states of California, Utah and Nevada.
Othram Inc., which uses the DNASolves database, said it was «thrilled» that Rice had finally been identified.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation is ongoing into a possible suspect.