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On September 3, 1973, the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department received a call from someone saying they found a woman dead in a landfill. The woman was wrapped in a blanket and had likely been dead for several days, according to detectives.
The woman had no identification on her, and her physical features didn’t match any recent missing persons cases. Investigators ruled her death a homicide.
Rankin County detectives classified her as a Jane Doe, and she was buried at a local cemetery in Pearl, Mississippi.
The case stayed cold until April 2021, when the woman was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, according to police. A year later, in April 2022, Rankin County Coroner David Ruth submitted legal paperwork to have the body exhumed in hopes of identifying Jane Doe.
Ruth was able to submit multiple samples of her DNA to Othram Labs — a lab that dubs themselves as “a revolution in cold case solution.”
On Feb. 12, 2023, Othram lab technicians were able to identify the woman as Tonya Lea Wills Mullins using forensic-grade genome sequencing.
According to DNA Solves by Othram Labs and Central MS Crime Stoppers, Mullins was 22 years old when she was killed. She had been married, and had two children — a 2-year-old and 4-year-old.
Detectives believe she was living in Mississippi during the time of her disappearance, but she was originally from Potter, Texas.
It’s unclear if she was ever reported missing by her husband, children, friends, or other family members.
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Anyone with information about her disappearance or murder is being asked to call Crime Stoppers at 601-355-TIPS (8477) or go to www.P3tips.com/116 and submit a tip.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]