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"Mohave Jane Doe" Identified After 50+ Years as Colleen Rice

Colleen Audrey Rice photo from Portsmouth High School

Colleen Audrey Rice photo from Portsmouth High School

Identified: Colleen Audrey Rice

The case of a dead woman found in the remote desert region of Arizona who had gone unidentified for more than 50 years made a big step towards a resolution. Authorities announced her identity on the 52nd anniversary of finding her body.

On January 23, 2023, her identity was officially announced as Colleen Audrey Rice. The Mohave County Sheriff's Office partnered with private DNA laboratory Othram in 2022 to take on the case.

The identification was made possible through crowdfunding set up by Othram to raise the money needed to conduct the necessary testing and research. It was hoped that the community would step up and help bring about justice—and a name—for "Mohave Jane Doe."

The MCSO dedicated $1,000 and the wider community donated the remaining $6,500 within five days. Advanced DNA testing and investigative genetic genealogy was carried out, and DNA comparison to a family member's DNA confirmed the results.

Colleen Audrey Rice was born in Portsmouth, Ohio to parents James C. Rice and Flossie Truitt on March 17, 1931. She attended Portsmouth High School and later married William Davis in 1946, also in Ohio. Colleen was estranged from her family, making it difficult to piece her later life together.

Discovery of Remains

"Mohave Jane Doe" was found by three hunters on January 23, 1971, off Hackberry Road, a dirt road about 2.2 miles from US Highway 93. This is a remote desert area in Mohave County, Arizona, about 30 miles southeast of the town of Kingman.

She was found discarded inside a white, loosely woven canvas sack, tied at the top with rope. Printed in green lettering on the side were the words “Deer-Pak Ames Harris Neville Co."

Several items of clothing were also discovered with her body:

  • A long-sleeved, multi-colored blouse
  • A long-sleeved black cardigan sweater
  • Stretch pants that were a burnt orange color
  • A pair of bobby socks
  • A pair of black leather ankle boots
  • A set of brown leather driving gloves
Clothing found with "Mohave Jane Doe"

Clothing found with "Mohave Jane Doe"

Investigation

The woman was described as Caucasian between the ages of 35 and 40 years old. She measured at 5'4" tall and was estimated to weigh between 125 to 140 pounds. The woman had curly hair that was dark brown with some grey in it.

She also had a long scar on her stomach, possibly a Cesarean scar. A bone indentation found on her ring finger meant that the woman likely wore a wedding ring regularly. Her nails were meticulously manicured, and she was not a smoker.

Her death was ruled a homicide, as it was determined she had been strangled to death.

Investigators with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office conducted a thorough investigation and explored several different avenues over the years in an effort to identify the woman.

Her fingerprints were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington D.C. The approximate cost of her dental work at that time was $2,100, including a $500 micro band bridge. Details about her extensive dental work were featured in major dental magazines throughout the United States, anticipating a dentist might recognize the costly work.

Investigators estimated she was probably killed near the end of the December 1970 bow hunting season. Each of the 5,000 bow hunter applications were checked, and all the married hunters were asked to produce their wives for questioning.

Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California missing persons reports were all checked. Investigators even inquired with local stores, motels, and hotels. The MCSO contacted the Museum of Northern Arizona to have an artist use the woman's skull to create a sketch of what "Mohave Jane Doe" may have looked like in life.

Artist rendering of "Mohave Jane Doe"

Artist rendering of "Mohave Jane Doe"

Recent Efforts

None of those attempts brought investigators any closer to discovering the woman's name. The case then went cold. Finally in November 2021, "Mohave Jane Doe's" case was entered into NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Then MCSO partnered with Othram in 2022 to successfully crack the case and identify Colleen in 2023.

Many questions remain now that Colleen has her name back, such as if she had any children or how she ended up slain in the Arizona desert. The investigation will now presumably focus on the circumstances that lead to her death and identifying her murderer.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office urged anyone who might have information about Colleen's life or her murder to call them:

  • 928-753-0753 ext. 4408
  • Toll-free number 1-800-522-4312

Reference case #71-0383.

Sources