Jane Doe Homicide Victim Missing Since 1981, Identified

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – After 41 years of working to identify a Jane Doe, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit – Cold Case Team, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office, and Othram Inc. have positively identified her as Alice Lou Williams.  Detective Jim Scharf led today’s press conference.

Alice went missing under suspicious circumstances from her Lake Loma recreational cabin in July 1981.

On October 10, 2009, US Forest Service surveyors discovered a partial human cranium in a steep forested ravine near Beckler Road north of Skykomish, Wash.  Despite numerous searches, no other remains, clothing, or jewelry was found. The cranium was transported by Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office detectives to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

The late forensic anthropologist Dr. Kathy Taylor performed a forensic anthropology exam and determined that the cranium belonged to a female over the age of 40. However, due to the scant amount of skeletal remains recovered and the incomplete cranium, it was not possible to infer race or other physical characteristics. The death was classified as suspicious due to the presence of trauma and the location where the cranium was found.

The case was entered into NCIC (National Crime Information Center) which is the FBI’s computerized index that tracks crimes and missing persons, and NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

In March 2010, a small section of the cranium was sent to the FBI in Quantico, VA for DNA extraction and upload to their Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). In July 2012, the FBI successfully obtained a mtDNA profile and complete STR profile; both were uploaded to CODIS. Unfortunately, there was no match in CODIS for the decedent. In the following years, the STR profile was used to rule out numerous missing persons. The woman remained unidentified.

In October 2017, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Detective Jim Scharf contacted Colleen Fitzpatrick and Margaret Press from the DNA Doe Project for assistance. AMD Biotech in Georgia attempted to perform DNA testing on the nuclear DNA extract that was developed by the FBI lab. Unfortunately, the DNA extract was heavily contaminated with non-human DNA and testing was not successful.

In October 2019, another attempt was made to build a DNA profile for the decedent. A small section of cranial bone was sent to DNA Solutions, a laboratory in Oklahoma City, for microarray DNA testing. DNA Solutions was not able to extract enough DNA for testing and another extraction was not recommended.

In June 2021, investigators decided to make one more attempt. Based on the Medical Examiner’s previous success in building DNA profiles from challenging skeletal remains with Othram, a section of the cranial bone was sent to Othram, Inc. in The Woodlands, Texas. The funding for this laboratory work was generously provided by Audiochuck.

In March 2022, Othram successfully obtained a DNA extract that was sufficient for testing after multiple rounds of extraction and human enrichment. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to develop a DNA profile that could be uploaded to genealogical databases.

The Medical Examiner’s Office uploaded the Othram DNA profile to GEDmatch and obtained multiple close matches. They built family trees and discovered that Alice Lou Williams was a genealogical fit and that she also appeared to be unaccounted for. Alice’s adult children were contacted about the possibility, and they volunteered a DNA sample for comparison. Familial reference testing was performed at Family Tree DNA / Gene by Gene. The profile was uploaded to GEDmatch and confirmed that Beckler River Doe is Alice Lou Williams. Snohomish County missing person reports showed that Alice went missing under suspicious circumstances from her Lake Loma recreational cabin in July 1981.

On June 10, 2022, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Matt Lacy officially identified Alice Lou Williams and classified her death as a Homicide.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office tip line at (425) 388-3845.

Statement from the Family

Dona Roth, daughter of Alice Williams provided the following statement:

“I would like to thank Jane Jorgensen who is the Medical Investigator from Snohomish County for identifying my Mothers remains through DNA and to Jim Scharf the Snohomish County Cold Case Detective for their ongoing efforts to put an end to this case. It has been 41 years since she disappeared from my parents’ Lake Loma cabin. The only person who could supply any information to the investigators was my Father, who was the last person to see her. Our family became broken over her disappearance and that wound has never healed. In closing I would just like to thank my Mom for her love and devotion. Also for teaching hard work and dedication and for leading the way for my own family. She will always be remembered in our hearts.”

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