Richland County Coroner identifies “Jane Doe” in 1982 cold case

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 11:35 AM EDT
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RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford identified a “Jane Doe” in a 1982 cold case.

Rutherford said Virginia Higgins Ray — who was diagnosed with schizophrenia — was a patient at Richland County state hospital and later transferred to the women’s ward on Bull Street, but never provided her name.

Her medical records state she suffered a grand mal seizure and a subsequent fall before her death, which was caused by aspiration from the contents in her stomach.

She remained unidentified for over 40 years, despite exhaustive search efforts by the coroner’s office and anthropology team.

According to Rutherford, the anthropology team turned to genetic genealogists at FHD Forensics for help on the case.

FHD Forensics found almost 4,400 people in her family tree and 11 sets of ancestor couples with intermarried descendants.

The team was eventually led to a group of surnames out of Wilmington, N.C. and the surrounding area and a targeted press released was sent out.

Rutherford said Ray’s daughter contacted Richland County’s anthropology department on Mother’s Day (May 14) and stated she believed they had her mother’s remains.

Richland County Sheriff’s Department DNA lab confirmed the relationship between her and a sibling of Ray’s to the unidentified remains of “Jane Doe” on May 19.

Rutherford added the investigation was underwritten by the Dean and Tina Linn Clouse Memorial Fund.

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