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Woman ID'd 21 years after body, jewelry found by Florida landscapers; search underway for killer

Meet the DNA "detective" who helped solve a decades-old cold case
Meet the DNA "detective" who helped solve a decades-old cold case 04:53

Police in Florida are searching for leads in a decades-old cold case after forensic genetic genealogy identified the victim as a woman who had never been reported missing. 

On December 29, 2003, human remains were found by landscape workers in a rural section of Christmas, Florida, part of unincorporated Orange County, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. The sheriff's office said they don't believe the woman was killed there but did not share further information about how she died. 

Several jewelry pieces, including rings and bracelets, were mixed in with the skeletal remains. Photos of the jewelry and a composite sketch of what the woman could have looked like were released to the public, but no tips came in. 

The composite sketch and jewelry photos were released to the public. Orange County Sheriff's Office

The case remained cold until 2022 when the sheriff's department received a grant from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The grant was used to collaborate with Othram Labs, which used forensic genetic genealogy to study the remains and create a DNA profile. 

A match for the DNA profile was found in 2023, and in March 2024, the Orange County medical examiner's office signed off on the positive identification of the remains as Holly Garcia, a 26-year-old wife and mother who lived on the east side of Orlando in 2002. 

Holly Garcia. Orange County Sheriff's Office

Police said Garcia had never been reported missing and asked for anyone who may have known her to come forward. They also said they are searching for her husband, Miguel Angel Garcia-Rivera. 

"We are thankful and happy that she has been identified but we are starting from scratch 20-plus years later to find out what occurred to her," Det. Chelsey Koepsell said in a video about Garcia's identification. 

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