Fifty-two years after death, Colleen Rice got her name back

Published 3:50 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Body found in 1971 identified as Portsmouth woman

MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA. — On and off for five decades, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office would investigate to try to identify the woman who was killed and left on the side of a road in a sack in the middle of the desert.

The case began on Jan. 23, 1971, when a woman was found next to a dirt road in the desert, two miles away from U.S. 93 near Kingman, Arizona.

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She was found in a white cotton canvas sack with the words “Deer-Pak Ames Harris Neville Co.” printed in green.

Nothing was known about the victim… they determined she was between 35–years of age, was between 125-140 pounds. She was 5’4” and had curly brown hair.

The clothes she was wearing were a size 14 multi-colored long sleeve blouse, a black long sleeve cardigan sweater and size 12 burnt orange stretch pants with “Symphony, it’s what’s happening” stitched on a tab inside.

She was wearing a pair of black leather, ankle high boots and bobby sox, possibly white at one time.

There was no jewelry, no purse, no identification.

The sheriff’s office put out an artist’s drawing, but no credible help came of it.

Years later, the sheriff’s office’s Special Investigation Unit reached out to the Museum of Northern Arizona to make a sketch of what the victim might have looked like, based on the features of her skull.

Still, no one could identify the woman.

In 2022, MCSO Cold Case investigators partnered with Othram Inc. to do DNA testing and forensic-grade genome sequencing to see if it could help identify the woman and the circumstances of her death.

The sheriff’s office committed $1,000 to the cause and asked the community to donate. Othram, Inc. set up a “Dear Gladys” DNA Solves fund to raise the remaining $6,500 to have her DNA tested.

In just five days, the testing was fully funded and the testing process began late last year.

On Jan. 23, 2023, 52 years after she was found, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office announced on their Facebook page that the woman was finally identified through DNA testing, countless hours of investigation into her family tree and contact with distant family relatives.

She had a name again. She is Colleen Audrey Rice.

After all this time, there were few facts they were able to find out about Rice – she was born on March 17, 1931 in Portsmouth, the daughter of James C. Rice and Flossie Truitt. She went to Portsmouth High School.

She married William Davis in 1946 in Ohio.

But besides that, not much else is known about her or how she ended up in the Arizona desert.

She was estranged from her family, so there was no one to say how or when she left Ohio.

The Special Investigation Unit could not find any records of her having any children.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office continues to seek anyone who could provide any information about Rice’s later years.

The unit is still investigating, hoping to find the suspect, or suspects, responsible for Rice’s death.

Anyone who has information regarding Colleen Audrey Rice or the incident can 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.