Photo: Tracey Coreen Hobson
After more than 31 years, a cold case Jane Doe murder from 1987 has been solved. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department, in partnership with the nonprofit DNA Doe Project, used breakthroughs in forensic genealogy to identify the victim.
She was Tracey Coreen Hobson, aged 20 and a resident of Anaheim, California, at the time of her murder. A citizen discovered what remained of her body on August 30, 1987, in a grassy area about 50 feet from Santa Ana Canyon Road, half of a mile west of Gypsum Canyon Road in unincorporated Anaheim, the OCSD said in a statement on January 17, 2019.
Forensic anthropological specialists said at the time that her corpse had been in the area for about two months. Examination of the remains determined that the victim’s hands had been cut off and that she had been stabbed in the abdomen. Apart from her skeletonized remains, the only items recovered in proximity to the site were a red handkerchief and a length of cord.
An extensive investigation ensued, during which the first-ever clay-model facial reconstruction in Orange County was performed. Yet despite periodic reviews of the case over the years, it eventually went cold, due to the lack of victim identification, until May 2005.
At that time, personnel from the California Department of Justice (CalDOJ) Bureau of Forensic Services were able to extract a DNA profile for Jane Doe, and uploaded the information to the California Missing Person’s Database and the National Unidentified Person’s DNA Index. Subsequent comparisons of the victim’s DNA profile with several possible subjects in the indices, in an attempt to identify her, produced no useful results.
In January 2017, reviewing the case, an OCSD investigator assigned to the Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force initiated more intensive research. Together with the OCSD coroner division, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), specialists developed several new likenesses of the murder victim. The victim remained unidentified, despite the images being publically released.
A year-and-a-half passed before further developments arose. Orange County Sheriff’s investigators joined in August 2018 with DNA Doe Project, a volunteer-run organization using forensic genealogy to identify John and Jane Does. DNA Doe Project has made six positive identifications of subjects since its inception in 2017, using what is called reverse genealogy to link with a family tree’s DNA results on consumer ancestry websites.
DNA from a citizen believed to be a family of Jane Doe was submitted to CalDOJ and matched to the victim. The OCSD Coroner Division, with the results from CalDOJ and using forensic odontology, confirmed her identity as Tracey Coreen Hobson on January 15, 2019.
The sheriff’s department, having notified family members, said that it would turn its focus to investigating the homicide case. Anyone with information related to this case is encouraged to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or crimestoppers.org.
|The Orange County Sheriff’s Department would like to thank the below agencies for their work in identifying Tracey Hobson:|
• The DNA Doe Project
• The Orange County District Attorney’s Office DNA Investigative Unit
• The Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force
• The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
• National Missing and Unidentified Person System (NamUS)
• California Department of Justice – Missing and Unidentified Persons Section
• Full Genomes Corp.
• Fulgent Genetics