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Crime News Cold Cases

California's "Mom-In-The-Box" Cold Case Solved After Nearly a Decade

New DNA technology has revealed the identities of both a woman found dead in her California apartment in 2014, and the remains found in a box under her kitchen table. 

By Elisabeth Ford
Orange County Investigator Talks Solving Cold Cases

In a bizarre California cold case that puzzled investigators for nearly a decade, DNA testing has helped identify a woman who was found dead in her Monterey home, as well as a body discovered in a box under her kitchen table.

In February 2014, the Monterey Police Department responded to a home on Fourth St. in the central California city, where they found the body of a woman who had seemingly died of starvation, police said in a news release. Her driver’s license identified her as Francesca Linda Jacobs, a California resident born in 1955.

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While foul play was ruled out in her death, the same could not be said for what police found under her kitchen table. Tucked away in a box, authorities found the decomposed human remains of a fully clothed woman.

“The virtually empty apartment that Francesca Jacobs had been living in for the past 12 years revealed a handwritten will, outlining the woman in the box was her mother, whom she identified as Florence Jacobs,” Monterey police stated.

The investigation soon became known as the “Mom-In-The-Box” case.

A cause of death could not be determined for the woman found in the box, nor could foul play be ruled out due to the condition of the body, "which appeared to have been in that state for many years," according to police.

Soon after the discovery of both women, police started to notice that not everything was as it seemed. While Francesca Jacobs’ purported age in death was 58, investigators believed her face looked much older than a woman that age, and her driver’s license photo seemed to reveal a much older woman.

Limited records were found on a “Francesca Jacobs” and only covered her time living on the Monterey Peninsula, starting in the 1990s. And barely any records could be found on the woman she claimed in the will was her mother. 

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In late 2022, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office Cold Case Task Force began working with the sheriff-coroner’s office in an attempt to identify the existing unknown human remains in the county, including the “Mom-In-The-Box” and Francesca Jacobs.

Samples from both women were used to create DNA profiles that were sent to Othram, Inc., a private forensics lab in Texas.

The results “led to surprising facts and a truth that had been known only to the woman who had died in 2014 in Monterey,” police stated.

The woman who was pretending to be Francesca Jacobs, and born in 1955, was actually Linda Rae Jacobs, born in 1942.

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It was also confirmed that Linda Rae Jacobs was indeed the daughter of Ida Florence Jacobs, the woman who was found in the box.

“Utilizing the newly developed DNA facts, MPD Detectives followed new leads and contacted relatives, including a previous husband who helped confirmed the true identities and the unusually strong life-bond between mother and daughter,” police said.

After the investigation, authorities don't believe foul play was involved in the death of the woman found in the box.

According to police, “The reasons Linda Rae Jacobs assumed a new name or why she would keep her mother’s body in a box under the kitchen table will likely never be known.”

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