The Bastrop County sheriff’s office has identified the woman whose remains were found in an unmarked grave near Elgin 44 years ago. The woman, known as Jane Doe, has now been identified as Kathy Ann Smith, born on July 19, 1956. Smith was close to her 23rd birthday when she died. Henry Lee Lucas, a confessed serial killer, remains the primary suspect in Smith’s homicide. Smith’s autopsy report showed trauma consistent with being hit by a car, and Lucas was known for using his car to disable victims before assaulting them. The case remains open for further investigation. Austin American-Statesman reported
Authorities in Bastrop County, Texas, have finally identified the woman whose remains were discovered at an unmarked grave site near Elgin 44 years ago. The decomposed body of a woman was found by sheriff’s deputies along U.S. 290 near FM 696 on June 21, 1979. At the time, the woman could not be identified, but subsequent estimates suggested she was aged between 16 and 40. Despite an initial investigation, no leads were found to help identify the Jane Doe.
It was announced on Thursday that the woman has been identified as Kathy Ann Smith, born on July 19, 1956. While her family, including Smith’s daughter, has been notified of the location of her remains, they have requested anonymity. Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook made this announcement during a news conference.
Kathy Ann Smith would have turned 67 last week. She was close to celebrating her 23rd birthday when she tragically passed away.
Henry Lee Lucas, a confessed serial killer, is the primary suspect in Kathy Ann Smith’s homicide.
In 1984, Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing the unidentified woman, leading to the reopening of the case by Texas Rangers and Bastrop County sheriff investigators. Lucas, a self-proclaimed serial killer, made hundreds of murder confessions in the 1980s, although he later recanted most of them.
Lucas was convicted of 11 murders, with one carrying a death sentence, which was later commuted to life in prison in 1998. He also received life sentences for the other murders. Lucas passed away in 2001 from congestive heart failure while incarcerated in Huntsville. He remains the primary suspect in Kathy Ann Smith’s death, according to officials.
Kathy Ann Smith’s autopsy report revealed trauma consistent with being hit by a car, which aligns with Lucas’s known modus operandi of using his vehicle to disable victims before assaulting them.
In 2019, Bastrop County officials launched an investigation to identify the woman by exhuming her body and extracting bone samples for DNA testing at the University of North Texas. It was clarified that the intention was solely to identify the woman and not to solve a crime, as the state of the remains made it difficult to determine the cause of death or any other specific details.
However, the DNA collected during the initial investigation was insufficient to identify the remains. As a result, the Bastrop County sheriff’s office sought assistance from Othram Inc., a private lab based in Houston. Additional samples were sent to Othram for testing, but a complete DNA profile could not be obtained.
In September 2022, a second exhumation of Kathy Ann Smith’s body took place, this time with the assistance of Texas State University. More samples were collected and sent to Othram for analysis.
On January 12, the Bastrop County sheriff’s office received the news that Othram had successfully obtained a full DNA profile for the woman. Subsequently, forensic genealogy techniques were employed using the crowdfunding platform DNASolves.com.
By April 3, the sheriff’s office had received a report from Othram containing the forensic genealogy information. This data was used to construct a family tree and ultimately discover Kathy Ann Smith’s true identity.
It was revealed that Kathy Ann Smith had a different name at birth and was adopted at a young age, which posed challenges for the investigative process. Court permission was required to access protected adoption information, resulting in a slower identification process.
District Attorney Bryan Goertz expressed his admiration for the case, stating, “This is a fascinating case study. You’re talking about a victim that was unidentified for all these many years, and through the joint efforts of law enforcement and the civilian population and private and nonprofit agencies … there’s a family that can rest in peace, and there’s an individual who’s not an indigent person in a grave. And that’s a beautiful thing.”
Kathy Ann Smith’s case remains open, and the sheriff’s office will continue to investigate if new information comes to light.