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DNA leads to true identity of woman at center of bizarre "Mom-In-The-Box" cold case in California

Police have finally identified a woman who was found dead in a California home nearly a decade ago — as well as the body of another person who was discovered inside a box under her kitchen table. 

The bizarre case began in February 2014, when the Monterey Police Department responded to the death of a woman, who was identified by her driver's license as 58-year-old Francesca Linda Jacobs. Police said in a news release that Jacobs died from starvation and they did not suspect foul play, but while at her home they found the "decomposed remains of another person inside a box under the kitchen table." 

Foul play could not be ruled out, police said, and a search of the apartment found that Francesca Jacobs had left a handwritten will naming the woman in the box as her mother, who she identified as Florence Jacobs. The investigation soon became known as the "Mom-In-The-Box" case. 

Soon, though, police began to find discrepancies in the case: Francesca Jacobs appeared much older than the age on her driver's license, and the license seemed to show a much older woman. Records about her life only began in the 1990s, and almost no records could be found for Florence Jacobs. 

In late 2022, the Monterey County District Attorney's Office Cold Case Task Force began working with the sheriff's office to try to identify all unknown human remains cases in the county, including the "Mom-In-The-Box" case. Samples from both women were used to create DNA profiles that were tested by a private forensics lab in Texas. 

The process led to what police called "surprising facts" in the case. The woman who had named herself Francesca Jacobs was actually Linda Rae Jacobs, born in 1942, not 1955. The DNA analysis confirmed that the woman in the box was her mother, Ida Florence Jacobs. Using these new developments, detectives were able to contact relatives of the women. 

One relative included a previous husband who "helped confirm the true identities and the unusually strong life-long bond between daughter and mother." 

The investigation confirmed that there was no foul play suspected in the death of Ida Florence Jacobs. However, the biggest question in the case remains unanswered. 

"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," police said. 

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