Homicide victim from 1971 identified in Mohave County

Kye Graves
Arizona Republic
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Colleen Audrey Rice, depicted in a high school photo (left), has been identified through DNA as the victim of a 1971 Mohave County cold case homicide, depicted in an artist rendering (right).

It took exactly 52 years, but the Mohave County Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Unit has finally put a name to a female homicide victim from 1971.

On Jan. 23, 1971, officers located a female body inside a canvas sack near a dirt road just 2 miles east of US Route 93 on Hackberry Road outside of Kingman.

Decades went by, and the woman remained unidentified.

In 2022, cold case investigators within the Mohave County Sheriff's Office partnered with Othram Inc. to use advanced DNA testing and forensic-grade genome sequencing in hopes of shining a light on the victim's possible identity.

The Sheriff's Office committed $1,000 toward the cost, asking the community for assistance to provide both closure and justice to her family. A DNA Solves fundraiser was set up by Othram Inc. to help raise the remaining $6,500 to test her DNA, a goal that was reached in five days.

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Testing began in late 2022, then all that could be done now was wait. Until Monday.

"On January 23, 2023, the victim found her voice. Through the use of Forensic Genetic Genealogy, the victim has been identified as Colleen Audrey Rice," the Mohave County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Tuesday.

The confirmation was given after a DNA test of a relative confirmed the match.

According to the Sheriff's Office statement, Rice was born on March 17, 1931, in Portsmouth, Ohio to James C. Rice and Flossie Truitt. She attended Portsmouth High School and married William Davis in Ohio in 1946.

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Much about Rice's life is still left unknown, including how she came to be in Arizona, and if she had any children because no records can be found, the Sheriff's Office said in the statement.

As the investigation continues, officials are asking for the public's help in providing any information they may have about Rice's later years of life.

Anyone who had information regarding Colleen Audrey Rice or the incident was 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.

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