Family Receives Unexpected Mother’s Day Blessing: Virginia Higgins Ray Identified as Richland County’s 1982 Jane Doe

AUSTIN, Texas, May 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — FHD Forensics is pleased to join with the Richland County Coroner’s Office and Genealogy For Justice™ to announce the resolution of a 40-year quest to identify a woman who died in a Columbia, South Carolina hospital in 1982.

Richland County’s State Hospital Jane Doe was a patient who died on February 15, 1982, after being admitted without a name due to a mental health crisis. In spite of an exhaustive campaign to determine her identity at the time, she remained unidentified for more than four decades. FHD Forensics began an investigation to name her last fall.

The woman has now been identified as Virginia Clyde Higgins Ray, a native of Wilkesboro, North Carolina. According to her family, Mrs. Ray was a loving, devoted mother and a devout Christian who delighted in her children.

When receiving the news that her mother had died decades ago, one of Virginia’s daughters said she had been searching extensively for her mother since she was just a girl. 

“My mother’s case was solved on Mother’s Day,” said Debbie Glennon. “It was the 42nd Mother’s Day since I saw her last. There are no words to express my gratitude.”

FHD Forensics’ work to identify Virginia Ray was a collaborative effort and included the Richland County Coroner’s Anthropology team led by Dr. Bill Stevens, as well as three private forensic labs. FHD’s Valerie Kemp was project genealogist and sister organization, Genealogy For Justice provided the funding. Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations performed bioinformatics engineering for the case.

“It took several tries to get us to the finish line with the fragile, degraded DNA in this case,” said Allison Peacock, President of FHD Forensics. “And the genealogy analysis was even more complex than the laboratory work.” 

“The close-knit quality of Mrs. Ray’s small North Carolina community was reflected in her family tree of almost 4400 individuals. Most of her genetic matches traced to not one, but to several of eleven common ancestor couples,” she explained. 

The investigation was underwritten by Genealogy For Justice’s Dean and Tina Linn Clouse Memorial Fund, named for a young couple murdered in Texas in 1980. Dean and Tina were identified in late 2021 using the same technology applied to this case.

Virginia’s identification was the very first case chosen by the memorial fund’s advisors because of the Clouse family’s shared experience of having a loved one with schizophrenia, the same mental illness suffered by Mrs. Ray. 

When asked about memories of her mother, Glennon said in spite of the decades, all of her children have the very same way of remembering her. 

“One memory of my mother that every one of my siblings and I share is of sunshine and picnics,” she emphasized. “When we each think of our memories of our mother – it was always sunny and it was always good.”

A fundraising campaign to replenish the memorial fund will launch next month in collaborations with popular genealogy mystery writer Nathan Dylan Goodwin.

Tax-deductible donations for other cold case genetic genealogy investigations can be made on the FHD Forensics and Genealogy For Justice websites.

For More Information:
Cyndi Despault
FHD Forensics, LLC
(512) 270-1301