In February 2014, the Monterey Police Department (MPD) responded to the death of a woman in the 1100 block of Fourth Street in Monterey, California. The woman, identified by her California Driver’s license as Francesca Linda Jacobs with a birth date in 1955, had died from starvation. No foul play was suspected. As part of the investigation, MPD officers and the Monterey County Sheriff-Coroner located the decomposed remains of another person inside a box under the kitchen table, indicated to be the woman's mother. The remains were transported for an autopsy, where the body of a fully clothed woman was found inside of the box. Due to the condition of the remains in the box, which appeared to have been in that state for many years, no cause of death could be determined. Foul play could not be ruled out.
At the time of her death, the woman identified initially as Francesca Jacobs appeared much older than the indicated age of 58 years and her driver’s license photo suggested similiarly that the woman was older. The records for Francesca Jacobs were only related to her time living on the Monterey Peninsula, starting in the 1990s. Almost no records could be found for Jacobs’ mother. In late 2022, with the election of Monterey County Sheriff-Coroner Tina Nieto, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office Cold Case Task Force began working directly with the Monterey County Sheriff-Coroner’s office in an to attempt to identify all unknown human remains cases in Monterey County. This included the Monterey case that was referred to as the “Mom-In-The-Box” case and Francesca Jacobs, whose true identities could not be established.
In 2022, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with the Monterey County Sherriff-Coroner’s Office and the California DOJ, submitted forensic evidence to Othram in hopes that advanced DNA testing could help identify both women. Othram scientists developed DNA extracts from the forensic evidence and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to develop comprehensive DNA profiles for the unknown women. Funding for Othram's DNA testing and forensic genetic genealogy research in this case was provided through the Roads to Justice (RTJ) funding program.
Othram's in-house genealogy team used the profiles in a forensic genetic genealogy search and returned investigative leads to law enforcement for a follow-up investigation. The follow-up investigation led investigators to family members of the decedents including a former husband of the woman who claimed to be Francesca Jacobs.
Investigators were able to determine that the woman who had portrayed herself as Francesca Jacobs, who was born in 1955, was actually Linda Rae Jacobs, who was born in 1942. The California DOJ was able to confirm through confirmation DNA testing that Linda Rae Jacobs and Ida Florence Jacobs were indeed daughter and mother. As part of their investigation, detectives learned that Linda Rae (daughter) and Ida (mother) shared an unusually strong lifelong bond. The reasons Linda Rae Jacobs assumed a new name or why she kept keep her mother’s remains in a box under the kitchen table are unknown and may never be known.
The Monterey County District Attorney’s Cold Case Task Force was created in 2020 to identify, review, and collaboratively re-investigate unresolved homicide cases, missing persons cases with foul play suspected, and cases of unidentified human remains throughout Monterey County. The Monterey Police Department has provided investigative resources that have been an integral part of the Cold Case Task Force since its inception. Many of the modern investigative approaches to develop new leads in unsolved “cold case” crimes, such as the case described herein are being utilized to work unresolved cold cases in the city of Monterey.