Officials with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office say they now have the identity of a woman who was found dead decades ago in a rural area of the northwestern Arizona county.
The woman’s body was found on January 23, 1971, in the desert near a dirt road about 2.2 miles east of Highway 93, according to a statement released on January 24.
We first reported on MCSO’s efforts to identify the woman in 2021, when agency officials asked for the public’s help in solving an outstanding case.
read more: Sheriff’s Office crowdfunds DNA investigation into a woman found dead more than 50 years ago
MCSO officials said they were working with a company called Othram in 2022 to determine whether “advanced DNA testing and forensic-grade genome sequencing” could provide insight into the woman’s identity. The testing process began in late 2022, and officials have now identified the woman as Colleen Audrey Rice.
“After countless hours of research on her family tree and contacts with distant relatives, this was confirmed by DNA testing of a relative,” the MCSO wrote in a statement released on Jan. 24.
Who is Colleen Audrey Rice?
Sketch by Colleen Audrey Rice.Her identity was unknown when the sketch was completed
According to MCSO officials, Rice was born on March 17, 1931, in Portsmouth, Ohio, a small town along the Ohio-Kentucky border about 100 miles southeast of Cincinnati. In 1946, she married a man named William Davis in Ohio.
Rice was estranged from her family before her death, so little is known about her life or how she came to Arizona, officials said. Officials were also unable to determine whether Rice had children because no records could be found.
Meanwhile, the investigation into Rice’s death remains ongoing.
“MCSO continues to seek the public’s assistance in providing any information they may have about the victim’s later life,” read part of the statement.
What is a Genetic Pedigree?
Genetic genealogy has played a role in many criminal cases in recent years, from the arrest of a man in connection with the Golden State Killer Brian Coberg Arrested and Murder of four University of Idaho students November 2022.
Genetic genealogy uses DNA test results, combined with traditional genealogy methods, to create profiles of biological relationships between or between individuals, according to a research guide published on the U.S. Library of Congress website.
In criminal cases, investigators sometimes use so-called forensic genetic genealogy, in which profiles of genetic variations that occur commonly among individuals, known as SNPs, are generated. This profile is then used to compare the case sample to other available profiles uploaded by consenting individuals.
The resulting investigative leads were subsequently confirmed through additional DNA analysis and detective work.
read more: What is a Genetic Pedigree?
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