In June 1979, the remains of an unidentified woman were discovered alongside U.S. Highway 290 east of Elgin, Texas. The discovery was made by law enforcement officers passing by. Investigators determined that the unknown woman was Caucasian and between the ages of 16 and 40 years old. She was estimated to be between 5’ and 5’ 2” tall and to have weighed between 90 and 130 pounds. Her hair was likely brown but investigators were not able to determine eye color. When she was discovered, the woman was wearing a white pullover shirt with red trim around the neck, and dark colored blue jeans with no label. The shirt bore a label of the "Evian JRS" brand. The blue jeans had a tag that read "styled in California, size 13-14."
During the course of the investigation no leads were uncovered leading to the female being identified. In 1984, Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing the Jane Doe.
In May of 2019 the case was reopened/taken from the cold case wall. Research was conducted in regards to the investigation that the Texas Rangers had completed. The burial location was identified in the Elgin Cemetery. Also in 2019, Investigators from the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office worked to exhume the woman's remains in hopes that newer DNA technology could be used to generate investigative leads that might point to her identity or the identity of a close relative. Prior to the exhumation, Investigators entered the case into the NamUs database as UP57657. The exhumed remains were transported to the University of North Texas (UNT) for DNA analysis. Upon the completion of the extraction of DNA from the remains, the UNT laboratory used the sample to compare against missing person files in NamUs. In September 2019, Investigators received notification from UNT that the DNA comparisons had been completed on the case and that currently, there was no match with any profiles in the CODIS database. The case once again went cold. In September 2022 a second exhumation was done with the Texas State Anthropology Unit.
In September 2022, the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Othram to determine if advanced DNA testing could help establish an identity for the woman. Law enforcement officials also want to rule out the possibility that her death was linked to serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who had previously confessed to the woman’s murder. Skeletal remains from the second exhumation were sent to Othram and Othram scientists developed a suitable DNA extract from the remains. Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® was used to develop a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown woman.
The Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office and the Bastrop County District Attorney’s Office contributed to the costs of DNA testing and genealogical research, and the rest of the funding was raised using a DNASolves Crowdfund. We are grateful to everyone that helped us, especially Project Grace, to crowdfund the necessary funds to complete the case.
In January 2023, Othram's in-house genetic genealogy team used the DNA profile in a forensic genetic genealogy search. In April 2023, the team produced investigative leads that were returned to law enforcement. The Bastrop County Sheriff's Office continued the investigation and completed a family tree and was able to confirm the identity of the unknown woman. The woman is now known to be Kathy Ann Smith, born July 19, 1956. Kathy was born with a different name and adopted young in life. The family of Kathy Smith has been notified of the location of her remains.
An investigation into her death continues and anyone with information regarding the case is encouraged to contact the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office at 512-549-5100. Please reference case 79-06-000688.