An Arizona community raised funds for DNA testing that has now identified a woman found dead in the desert more than 50 years ago.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office was notified on 23 January 1971 of human remains found dumped inside a canvas sack in a desert area.
Now officials say that they have finally been able to identify the victim as Ohio-born Colleen Audrey Rice.
The sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post that in October 2021 its special investigations unit worked with a sketch artist to develop an image of what the victim may have looked like and released it to the public.
And last year it began working with forensic genealogy company Othram Inc to see if advanced DNA testing “could help give insight into the identity of this woman and the circumstances surrounding her untimely death.”
Authorities contributed $1,000 to the cost of the DNA testing and asked for community donations, and within five days they had raised another $6,500.
“On January 23, 2023, the victim found her voice. Through the use of forensic genetic genealogy, the victim has been identified as Colleen Audrey Rice,” the sheriff’s office said in the post. “DNA testing of a relative confirmed this after countless hours of investigation into her family tree and contact with distant family relatives.”
Investigators say that Rice, who would have been around 39 when she died, was born in 1931 in Portsmouth, Ohio, and went to Portsmouth High School.
Her parents were identified as James C Rice and Flossie Truitt, and in 1946 she married William Davis in Ohio.
Detectives say that at some point Rice became estranged from her family and they say they do not know when she moved to Arizona or if she had any children.
“The investigation is ongoing into the suspect and/or suspects responsible for her death. The MCSO continues to seek the public’s assistance with providing any information they may have on the later years of the victim’s life,” the sheriff’s department added in the post.