Woman found in sack identified with DNA in 1971 cold case

KINGMAN, Ariz. (KTNV) — More than 50 years after her body was found in a canvas sack near US Highway 93, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigation Unit has announced that they have identified the female victim of a 1971 cold case.

Detectives have identified the woman as Colleen Audrey Rice, from Portsmouth, Ohio. Investigations revealed that she was estranged from her family, so it was unknown how she ended up in Arizona.

In October 2021, the sheriff’s office requested public assistance with identifying the previously-unknown remains of a victim found 2.2 miles east of U.S. Highway 93 on Hackberry Road. Police say the victim was located in a canvas sack that had been tied at the top with a white cotton rope, with the words “Deer-Pak Ames Harris Neville Co.,” printed in green.

The female victim was described by police as approximately 35-40 years of age, 5’4”, weighing approximately 125-140 pounds, and with curly brown hair. She was found in a multi-colored long-sleeve blouse, a black long-sleeve cardigan sweater, and burnt orange stretch pants with a pair of black leather, ankle-high boots and bobby socks.

The SIU team reached out to an artist from the Museum of Northern Arizona, according to the news release, who made a sketch of the victim “based on features of her skull.” The public was requested to contact the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office if they recognized the woman in the sketch and/or photo, or had any information about what happened to her.

In 2022, MCSO Cold Case investigators partnered with Texas-based Othram Inc. to determine if DNA testing and Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing could help give insight into the identity of the woman. With the help of community funding, the testing process began in late 2022 and the woman’s identity came to light on Monday.

Police continue to urge anyone who has information regarding Colleen Audrey Rice, or the incident, to contact the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office SIU at 928-753-0753 ext. 4408 or call the toll-free number at 1-800-522-4312 and reference DR# 71-0383.

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