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Crime News Cold Cases

California's 'Lady In The Fridge' Identified After Nearly 30 Years

A Jane Doe discovered inside a refrigerator submerged in a California irrigation canal in 1995 has been identified as 29-year-old Amanda Lynn Schumann Deza.

By Christina Coulter
California's 'Lady In The Fridge' Identified After Nearly 30 Years

Genealogical DNA has given a name to a long-unidentified California woman whose corpse was discovered nearly 30 years ago in a submerged refrigerator, authorities announced last week.

The Jane Doe referred to for years as the "lady in the fridge" was 29-year-old mother-of-three Amanda Lynn Schumann Deza, according to a press release issued by Othram, Inc., the lab that identified her.

Using forensic-grade DNA sequencing based on genetic material obtained from skeletal remains, Othram created a "comprehensive DNA profile" of the victim. That, combined with genealogical information voluntarily provided by individuals using family tree mapping services like Ancestry.com and other investigative means led to Deza's identity; samples provided by the victim's mother and daughter confirmed investigators' work.

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Deza, born on Aug. 11, 1965, was never reported missing, perhaps due to struggles in her life alluded to by San Joaquin County Sheriff's detectives at a Thursday press conference. She was last seen by her family "at an unknown apartment complex with an unidentified male she met in a rehabilitation facility" according to the lab's press release. At the time of her killing, she was separated from her husband and "three young children."

A police hand out of cold case victim Amanda Lynn Schumann Deza

"She was a 30-year-old woman out on her own and had her own life and so the family just didn't know," San Joaquin County Sheriff Patrick Withrow told reporters. "All family dynamics are different, as we all know."

Now, detectives hope to find that "one little piece" of evidence that could lead them to her killer, or that could paint a clearer picture of her life – Lt. Linda Jimenez remarked at the conference that it's "kind of hard to investigate who killed someone if you don't know who they are."

"Somebody might know that could reach out to us and give us that final piece so we can solve and bring to justice the person who had done this," Withrow said.

"We've spoken to several family members," he said. "They're grateful we've identified her. They were obviously shocked by the news but they're hopeful that we can find some kind of resolution to this."

In March of 1995, scavengers collecting cans and garbage for recycling in Holt, California - about 60 miles southwest of Sacramento - stumbled across the refrigerator in the Whiskey Slough irrigation canal; inside, according to The Sacramento Bee, detectives found the curled-up body of a woman who coroners estimated had been dead for six months. Her cause of death was determined to be blunt-force trauma.

The blonde woman was clad in a blue sweatshirt, Levi shorts, Gorilla brand boots, a Victoria's Secret bra, "multi-color knee-high socks with toes in them," and a one-third carat diamond ring and two distinct costume jewelry rings, according to a 2010 Facebook post from the San Joaquin Sheriff's Office seeking the public's help in the long-cold case.

At the time of her killing, according to Newsweek, there was speculation that she was a victim of notorious area serial killer Terry Peder Rasmussen, who killed at least six people and died at 67 in a California prison in 2010.

Also in the fridge with her was a "Hillary brand sleeping bag" and "items which indicated that the refrigerator may have originated in the Contra Costa County area," according to the Facebook post.

Investigators said Deza lived in Napa, Oakley, and Delta, California, and was described as a 110 to 130-pound strawberry-blonde white woman. Stockton Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information – tips can be lodged anonymously by calling 209-468-5087 or via email at coldcase@sjgov.org.

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