In January 1971, an unknown female victim was located in the desert area near a dirt road, 2.2 miles east of US Hwy 93 on Hackberry Road. The victim was located in a canvas sack that had been tied at the top with a white cotton rope. The sack was a white cotton, loosely-woven sack, with the words “Deer-Pak Ames Harris Neville Co.,” printed in green.
The female victim was described as approximately 35-40 years of age, 5’4”, weighing approximately 125-140 pounds, with curly brown hair. She was dressed in a size 14 multi-colored long sleeve blouse, a black long sleeve cardigan sweater, and burnt orange stretch pants with the following tab inside, “Symphony, it’s what’s happening” size 12. She was wearing a pair of black leather, ankle high boots and bobby sox, possibly white at one time. The victim was not wearing any type of jewelry. The SIU team reached out to an artist from the Museum of Northern Arizona who made a sketch of what the victim might have looked like based on the features of her skull. The public was requested to contact the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office SIU Division if they recognized the person in the sketch or photo with possible identity of this woman, or the incident.
Over the past 51 years since the discovery of the woman’s remains, investigators have pursued an expansive number of leads into determining her identity. 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. A police artist sketched a portrait. Local hotels, motels, and stores were checked. Missing reports from across Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah were all pursued. In November, 2021, the case was registered in NamUs as UP85987. None of these efforts led investigators to determine the woman’s identity, and the case went cold.
In 2022, MCSO Cold Case investigators partnered with Othram to determine if advanced DNA testing and Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® could help give insight into the identity of this woman and the circumstances surrounding her untimely death. Mohave County Sheriff's Office committed $1000 to the cause and asked for assistance from the community to give her justice and closure to her family who has been looking for her. Othram set up a DNASolves crowdfund to raise the remaining $6,500 to perform the work necessary to produce investigative leads. The hope was that the community would open its heart and help to finally give her a name. The “Dear Gladys” DNA Solves page was advertised and the community opened its heart, funding the case in only 5 days. The testing process began in late 2022.
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.
Colleen Audrey Rice was born on 3-17-31 in Portsmouth, Ohio, the daughter of James C. Rice and Flossie Truitt. She went to Portsmouth High School, from which an early photo of her was obtained (the main photo used in this story). She married William Davis in 1946 in Ohio. She was estranged from her family, so little is known of her life or how she came to be in Arizona. It is unknown if she had children as no records could be found. The investigation is ongoing into the suspect and/or suspects responsible for her death. The Mohave County Sheriff's Office continues to seek the public’s assistance with providing any information they may have on the later years of the victim’s life.
Anyone who has information regarding Colleen Audrey Rice or the incident is encouraged 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.