Detectives have been able to identify a dead woman in the United States whose remains were placed in a canvas bag and buried in the Arizona desert more than 50 years ago, via a DNA test. The woman was identified as Colleen Audrey Rice by the authorities after the community-funded study. She was born in Ohio in 1931 and would have been about 39 years old when she died and her body was found in November 1971, according to a report in The Guardian.
After a public appeal for $6,500 (Rs 5.2 lakh) to support the project, the identification was made in collaboration with a forensic genealogy firm, Othram Inc. The money was raised in five days largely due to an initial $1,000 (Rs 81,000) put up by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and a posting of the case on the DNA Solves website.
According to the sheriff’s office, Othram and its cold case investigators collaborated to see if cutting-edge DNA analysis and forensic-grade genome sequencing could help to identity of this woman and the circumstances surrounding her tragic death. The police asked an artist from the Museum of Northern Arizona to help them age a high school portrait of Ms Rice. It was later discovered that she was married and estranged from her family, which further necessitated the funding request.
DNA Solves website added, “Early in the investigation, her fingerprints were sent to the FBI in Washington and a report of her expensive dental work was distributed in prominent dental magazines. Those records were checked against thousands of patient files.” However, they were unsuccessful in identifying her.
After five decades of desperation, advances in DNA technology enabled her identification. “In January 2023, the victim found her voice. She is now identified as Colleen Audrey Rice. DNA testing of a family member confirmed her identity after countless hours of investigation into her family tree and contact with distant family relatives,” the website mentioned.
They also added that there are no records to show if she had children and that the investigation into the suspect or suspects responsible for her death is ongoing.