ANAHEIM, CA — An unidentified homicide victim was given a name this week, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Tracey Coreen Hobson, a former La Mirada High School student and Anaheim resident, was positively identified thanks to the DNA Doe Project, according to a recent release.

DNA believed to be from a family member was submitted to the California Department of Justice and initially matched to the victim in November 2018. The DNA positively identified Hobson this week, OCSD and DNA Doe said. According to the DNA Doe Project, Hobson was 20-years old at the time of her disappearance in the summer of 1987.

Many questions remain for investigators researching her death, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The circumstances of her disappearance also remain shrouded in mystery.

“Our investigators are working to see if anyone filed a missing person report on Tracey,” OCSD spokeswoman Carrie Braun told Patch. The department and strategies used in the 1980s vary from those of today, she said. Paper records, many of which are still boxed and not digitized, will be reviewed and interviews conducted now that this longtime Jane Doe has a name.

Finding Tracey

A hiker discovered Hobson’s skeletal remains in Santa Ana Canyon at the end of August 1987, Braun said.

Searchers located her remains in a grassy area about 50 feet from Santa Ana Canyon Road, a half-mile west of Gypsum Canyon Road, near the Riverside Freeway. By all accounts her corpse was left undiscovered in that area for over two months, Patch was told.

“The only items found near her body were a red handkerchief and a length of cord,” Braun said.

A report from the DNA Doe project stated that searchers in the area found “handfuls of blond hair, but no clothes, pocketbook or car keys.”

Anthropological investigations of her remains showed the young woman had been stabbed twice in the ribs, and that her hands were missing. Everything else about the girl remained a mystery.

“After an extensive investigation, which included the first-ever clay model facial reconstruction in Orange County and periodic case reviews, the case went cold. She remained unidentified, known only as “Anaheim Jane Doe.”

Forensic Genealogy

The first DNA profile of the victim was developed in May 2005. Efforts to identify her through various databases since then proved fruitless until November of 2018.

DNA experts did a genome sequencing of genetic material of the victim that produced 3 billion markers, said Margaret Press, co-founder of the DNA Doe Project, which helped identify the victim.

After reducing that file and checking the DNA profile for matches in a genealogy website it narrowed down the possibilities, Press said. From there, a relative was asked to upload their genetic material to GEDmatch, a DNA database, Press said.

“We reached out to a family member who had tested on an ancestry website and asked them to upload to GEDmatch, which gave us the confirmation we needed,” Press said.

Though the OCSD declined to say which DNA database provided the match to Hobson, the message is becoming clear. Familial DNA already matched Joseph James DeAngelo, the suspected Golden State Killer, also found with the assistance of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 2018.

“Forensic genealogy has provided a new tool for investigators to work cases from a different angle to bring closure to families,” Sheriff Don Barnes said. “We will never stop investigating these types of cases and seeking justice for victims of crime.”

Family members have been notified, and the Sheriff’s Department will now turn its focus to investigating the homicide case.

“Now sheriff’s investigators can use this major development in the case to focus on bringing her killer to justice,” Press said.

Anyone with information related to this case is encouraged to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or crimestoppers.org.

OCSD, DNA Doe Project Photos

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